Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Who You Calling Tar Baby!

Ole dude says he didn’t mean any harm when he said being associated with Obama’s policies is like “touching a tar baby”. I could respond by saying “Cracker please.”

After using a word identifiable as demeaning to Caucasians, I could come back with “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it that way. I was asking you to pass the saltines.”

So, there are dim-witted comments, and then there are statements that are double-talk. I can forgive a person who doesn’t know any better than to spit venom that conjures memories of times when I had to open a can of whip ass, it’s possible that Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo) didn’t know that “tar baby” is first cousin to the N-word.

He made the faux pas last week on a Denver radio show. The House Republican apologized to President Obama on Wednesday for saying that being associated with Obama’s policies is like “touching a tar baby.” Lamborn’s office later released a statement saying the congressman meant to say “quagmire” instead of “tar baby.” Yeah, they do sound alike.

The term “tar baby” has its origin in a doll made of tar and turpentine used to entrap Br’er Rabbit in the Uncle Remus stories. Lamborn argues that he used the term to speak to the sticky political consequences in being tied to the Obama policies. Should we allow him off the hook for not knowing the deep scars connected to the term? I think not.

In his book Coup, John Updike says of a white woman who prefers the company of black men, "some questing chromosome within holds her sexually fast to the tar baby." The Oxford English Dictionary says that tar baby is a derogatory term used for "a black or a Maori." In an age where political correctness is critical in undoing the nation’s legacy of oppression, politicians need to be scolded for not knowing how black folks hear the term.

He’s not the first politician to receive flak for using “tar baby” to describe a sticky situation. On July 29, 206, then Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney used it while addressing a group of Iowa Republicans in reference to Boston’s troubled Big Dig highway project. Bruce Gordon, head of the NAACP, told the Boston Herald the governor “made a bad choice.” A spokesperson for Romney apologized saying he meant to refer to “a sticky situation.”

In May of that same year, White House spokesperson Tony Snow when asked about the government secretly collecting phone records responded “I don’t want to hug the tar baby” of trying to comment on the program. In 2004, TIME used the term in reporting that John Kerry’s presidential advisors were telling him to get away from “the Iraq tar baby.”

Both Snow, Kerry and Romney get a pass for making a blunder that may have been the result of not knowing how “tar baby” has been used to demean African Americans. Lamborn’s use of the phrase strikes a different chord. Snow, Kerry and Romney were referring directly to policies. Lamborn’s comments connected policy with the black man associated with that policy. This should follow him all the way to the next election. He should have known better. Enough has been connected to the word to teach the lesson. He should have learned from Snow, Kerry and Romney.

Maybe politicians need diversity training before they take an oath to office. As for the of media coverage surrounding this issue, maybe it speaks to a lack of sensitivity related to terms used to demean African Americans that don’t start with N. There’s a long list: Ape, Aunt Jemina, Boogie, Colored, Coon, Jigaboo, Nigra, Porch Monkey, Sambo, Spade.

I understand and appreciate the difficulty of keeping up with all the forbidden terms. I will forgive you once Mr. Romney for using the term “tar baby.” I may listen to you once Mr. Kerry for doing the same. I hear how it all happened Mr. Snow. It get all of that, but enough is enough Mr. Lamborn. I have had enough of this “tar baby” crap.

I’ve got your “tar baby!” Take a step outside and let me slap yo cracker ass. I got your “tar baby” and I’m not your “Sambo”.

Inhale, exhale, release! All that history just got a hold of me. Can’t we all just get along?


  1. Yes, Pastor, I had to "WHOOOOO SAAAAA" when I first heard it. I wanted someone to open an ole' Fashion can of South Side of Chicago Whooop Arsh too. Then I remembed we do not fight against flesh and Blood but against principalities in high places. So WHOOOO SAAAAAAA

  2. Carl I have to say. You have done it again. You always raise the questions that cause a reader to go deeper in their own presuppositions. Thank your for your meaningful commentary. I do think a good slap would do many politicians good.