My (Tar) Baby Can Read!
Most of you have probably already heard about the huge news in Washington that’s being talked about across the country:
The awful debt ceiling deal a certain Republican Congressman calling President Obama a tar baby. Representative Lamborn is currently under fire from a lot of folks from what was, at the very least, a regrettable turn of phrase. The NAACP and Urban League are breathing down his neck now, many are criticizing him and some are even calling for his resignation. Bad move by him.
But was it racist?
My initial reaction was that it wasn’t. I thought it was a bit of an overreaction from an (understandably) oversensitive segment of society. He didn’t directly call President Obama a tar baby and used a legitimate connotation of the phrase meaning, “a sticky situation or quagmire”. And had it been used in reference to any other person or situation, like it was when Presidential-hopeful Mitt Romney used it a few years back about a highway project, I think I and the rest of Black America would have shrugged it off. But it’s never really that simple during the Obama Years, is it? We have to be oversensitive to things like this because our President has been the subject of blatant and unprecedented disrespect since his inauguration.
From being told “you lie” during the historically unbroken and solemn silence afforded when the President addresses Congress, to the idiotic “birther” conspiracies, to the political cartoons depicting him as a monkey, to the steadfast refusal of some Republicans to call him “president” (rather using “Mr.” in a very uncle-like connotation), to congressional leaders refusing to take his phone calls (imagine being the staffer or intern whose job it was to take a message for the POTUS!), Barack Obama has been disrespected at almost every step of his presidency. I’ve tackled the issue a bit in an earlier post, and I’ve made it clear that these continued slights, as small and insignificant as they may be, are the product of one thing and one thing only: racism. Honestly, when it comes to cases like this, we are almost forced to assume racism or insult as the intention, since experience tells us that so many of these things are actually meant with disrespect. So with these things in mind, is the “tar baby” reference racist?
I think so.
The burden of proof is on the speaker of the insult in this case. While Lamborn may get away in the media by using the “my bad, I was using the OTHER meaning of tar baby” defense, I’m not sure that really holds up to further scrutiny. It’s not like you can get away with saying “faggot” in any context, even if that context was ostensibly meant to be about a bundle of wood, or whatever. It’s very un-PC to liken a woman to your “bitch”, even if you happen to have a lady dog that you love and care dearly about. There are certain things that you just can’t say, and I’m sorry about that, white folks (my offer to trade the rights to using the word “nigga” in exchange for reparations still stands, by the way). And if you do say those things, you must be qualified as either an idiot or as a racist. So what is this Lamborn character? Well, he’s a lawyer and has been in politics for 16 years, so I’m inclined to rule out the “sappy idiot” option (although there are several career JD-politicians who ARE idiots), and am also inclined to rule out the innocent “other definition” excuse, especially when that definition was built by the Uncle Remus stories, which have been mired in racial controversy since their inception. So what happened here?
I look at it as an extension of what I call “nigger envy”. No, it’s not the secret desire of white folks to be Black (although Paul Mooney’s quote will always ring true), but rather what I see as the burning desire of some white folk to say racist things and not be classified as “racist”. There’s always the frat guys complaining because they can’t say “nigga”, or the “cool” white guy or girl who thinks (s)he is allowed to say it, or the overzealous kid in class who volunteers to read ALL of Huckleberry Finn aloud, or the overzealous radio hosts who call women nappy-headed hoes or think it’s fine to say “nigger” because Black guys say it. This stupid phrase “post-racial” society is being bandied about by everyone (except minorities) and I really think it’s doing the opposite of the intended effect. After a PC-sanitized 2000s decade, the post-racial concept is really making some people less cautious about what they say simply because as long as they have Black friends or don’t lynch people or “didn’t mean it that way”, they magically aren’t racist because we are “past race”. So clearly, I think it is racially charged and we shouldn’t allow Rep Lamborn to get away with the shitty “I didn’t mean it that way” excuse.
But should we be in a rush to call him to resign for it? Just keep in mind what politicians get away with and reconsider that. Even Black politicians.
Let’s not be so hasty, folks.
**EDIT** This story about Pat Buchanan’s “Your Boy” comments about Obama just hit the wire and I find it highly relevant.