From David Sarota comes this lovely tale of not-so-closeted racism:
“Tar Baby” — from time to time, this ugly racially charged phrase has come up in our political discourse.
Most often, the term is applied to a situation or a thing. John McCain, for example, used it to describe divorces. Likewise,Mitt Romney used it to describe the Big Dig. In both instances, the Republican leaders apologized for using such a loaded word — even though they hadn’t used it to describe an actual person.
The same cannot be said for Representative Doug Lamborn (R-CO), who used the term to describe President Obama in a statewide radio interview on Friday. You can listen to that interview here, which we examined on myKKZN-AM760 radio show this morning. Here’s the key excerpt:
LAMBORN: Even if some people say “well, the Republicans should have done this, or should have done that,” they will hold the President responsible. Now, I don’t even want to be associated with him, it’s like touching a, a tar baby and you get it…you know you’re stuck and you’re part of the problem and you can’t get away.
It has been questioned, fairly I might add, whether the term “tar baby” is always a racist term.
In 2006, Ta-Nehisi Coates explored this issue in Time magazine. “Is tar baby a racist term?” he asked. “Like most elements of language, that depends on context. Calling the Big Dig a tar baby is a lot different than calling a person one.” In this case, that context is quite clear.
This, of course, doesn’t absolve McCain and Romney, who plead ignorance to the term’s racial implications and then promptly apologized.
But it is to say that in Lamborn’s case, the ignorance plea would be absurd because he explicitly used the term to describe a black person.
Tellingly, this openly derogatory epithet comes from not just any old politician. Lamborn is a United States congressman from Colorado Springs — one of the most conservative Tea-Party-loving districts in America.
In the hard-core right-wing political circles he runs in, describing a black person as a “tar baby” is probably more than acceptable — it may even be celebrated, especially when aimed at a political opponent like President Obama.
So while Lamborn may ultimately apologize (he hasn’t yet), and while he may insist he didn’t mean to use the term the way he did, the comment reveals how various forms of racism are still being mainstreamed by the fringe right.
Looking away, pretending Lamborn was just using some innocuous figure of speech, or insisting that despite the McCain/Romney affair Lamborn somehow didn’t know what he was doing only contributes to that larger racist trend.
To me this falls into the “dangerously stupid” category.
Either he really tosses around terms like this when talking about African-Americans…which makes him pretty ignorant/stupid.
Or he just doesn’t understand the concept that it is indeed an insult to a minority, one that happens to be our Commander-Ii-Chief…which makes him pretty ignorant/stupid.
Any way you cut it, this guy is residing in the shallow end of the gene pool from where I sit.