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Michele Bachmann (R-Mars): Obama Is ‘Waving a Tar Baby in the Air’

WTF
Wingnuts • Views: 23,407

Our WTF moment of the day comes via Michele Bachmann, who told the far right fake news site “Shark Tank” that President Obama was “waving a tar baby in the air.”

The Minnesota congresswoman and former Republican presidential candidate accused President Obama of “waving a tar baby in the air” on Thursday following his proposals that would give government regulators more authority to limit price manipulation in the oil market.

“This is just about waving a tar baby in the air and saying that something else is a problem,” Bachmann told Florida-based conservative news organization Shark Tank on Wednesday.

This sure sounds a lot like that good ol’ dog whistle racism. But she managed to mangle the meaning of the term; the point of that “Uncle Remus” story was that you’d stick to the tar baby if you touched it. Waving it in the air is Bachmann’s own strange little twist, and it doesn’t really make sense. Even her dog whistles are a little … off.

But it’s just weird enough to be amusing. Come on, you missed her, didn’t you? Admit it.

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72 comments

1 nines09  Thu, Apr 19, 2012 2:31:37pm

Where I came from and where I an today Tar Baby means one thing and one thing only. Spin it, twist it and shove up your ass Michele. It's one thing and one thing only. No I didn't miss her. I though maybe she was busy representing the people of Minnesota. I must be delusional.

2 Bubblehead II  Thu, Apr 19, 2012 2:32:11pm

Come on, you missed her, didn’t you? Admit it.

Nope. Not going there. Crazy eyed lady just needs to fade into the mist.

3 Mostly sane, most of the time.  Thu, Apr 19, 2012 2:33:01pm

????

So...wait...I'm confused.

He somehow got the tar baby stuck on his hand (the story is actually a parable about a problem getting worse if you attack it aggressively and without understanding), and now he's waving it around trying to get it off? Maybe he's signalling for help? Perhaps he's hoping that Romney will get close enough that he can clock Romney in the head with the thing, causing Romney to have to shave off The Hair, a la little kid with some gum?

4 Charles Johnson  Thu, Apr 19, 2012 2:33:10pm

Even her dog whistles are a little ... off.

5 Lord Baron Viscount Duke Earl Count Planckton  Thu, Apr 19, 2012 2:33:29pm

Palin is not the only one to make the word salad. Personally, I don't find much problem with the use of the term "tar baby" as long as it is applied to a situation or a concept, not to a person. It can be a useful term. What I find really problematic is this continuation:

I have never seen a more irresponsible president who is infantile in the way that he continually blames everyone else for his failure to first diagnose the problem and second to address the problem. It's always everyone else's fault.

Obama is not in the 1000 light years radius of "infantile", and since the old racist stereotype paints black males as "men-children", I would suspect dog-whistle in this instance.

6 TedStriker  Thu, Apr 19, 2012 2:34:02pm

Bachmann is apparently too ignorant to be a good racist...

7 Mostly sane, most of the time.  Thu, Apr 19, 2012 2:35:53pm

The irony, of course, is that the Uncle Remus Tar Baby story is actually an excellent parable about a protagonist who is overly aggressive, doesn't understand the situation, attacks without seeking more understanding, and jumps to conclusions, thereby hurting himself.

It really does have a good point.

8 Sol Berdinowitz  Thu, Apr 19, 2012 2:36:58pm

And to think that this woman (along with Herman Cain and even Donald Trump) were taken seriously as candidates by the GOP...

9 nines09  Thu, Apr 19, 2012 2:37:11pm

Or rather I should put it this way. I never heard a politician use the term Tar Baby any other time in my life, except back in the burning 60's as a insult. It just must be coincidence that there is a black POTUS? Yes. That must be it.

10 Sol Berdinowitz  Thu, Apr 19, 2012 2:38:12pm

It came up earlier in some political debate, prompting the same response...

Heck, give 'em enough rope.....or tar.

11 Mostly sane, most of the time.  Thu, Apr 19, 2012 2:38:17pm

re: #9 Loco Mescalero

Or rather I should put it this way. I never heard a politician use the term Tar Baby any other time in my life, except back in the burning 60's as a insult. It just must be coincidence that there is a black POTUS? Yes. That must be it.

As a cultural reference, I believe you are right.

It's just that she mangles it, and clearly does not bother to understand the original story.

12 Bulworth  Thu, Apr 19, 2012 2:39:10pm
“This is just about waving a tar baby in the air and saying that something else is a problem,” Bachmann told Florida-based conservative news organization Shark Tank on Wednesday.

So gas prices are too high and it's Obama's fault. Why doesn't Obama do something? What's that? Obama's trying to do something about high gas prices? Who's he think he is, Barack Hugo Castro Chavez? Soshulism! Government takeover of oil! /

13 Sol Berdinowitz  Thu, Apr 19, 2012 2:39:53pm

Newt is still bidding $2.50 per gallon if we elect him...

14 Talking Point Detective  Thu, Apr 19, 2012 2:40:35pm
But it’s just weird enough to be amusing. Come on, you missed her, didn’t you? Admit it.

It was a sad day when she dropped out of the nomination race.

15 Kragar  Thu, Apr 19, 2012 2:40:44pm

She so crazy I'm not sure if she was being more racist or stupid.

16 Dancing along the light of day  Thu, Apr 19, 2012 2:41:26pm

I REALLY have missed her! LOL!
I still want to see a Palin/Bachman ticket it 2012.

17 Bubblehead II  Thu, Apr 19, 2012 2:42:27pm

re: #15 Kragar

She so crazy I'm not sure if she was being more racist or stupid.

Stupid gets my vote. Remember she is (R) Mars.

18 nines09  Thu, Apr 19, 2012 2:42:53pm

re: #11 Mostly sane, most of the time.

It's being used out of context even if she knew what context is. It's an insult and a put down. I dare her to tell the parable in mixed company. I'm sure the intent will be perfectly received.

19 Sol Berdinowitz  Thu, Apr 19, 2012 2:43:04pm

re: #15 Kragar

She so crazy I'm not sure if she was being more racist or stupid.

I see racist as a sub-set of stupid...

20 The Gender Ambiguity of a Flea  Thu, Apr 19, 2012 2:43:12pm

Michele Bachmann Accuses Obama of ‘Waving a Tar Baby in the Air,’ Then Backpedals Like Hell

Update:

And the backpedaling began almost immediately. A spokesperson explained that Bachmann meant the conversation about our black President in the "sticky trap made of tar" way and not in the "our black President is blacking around again" way.

The congresswoman values all human life - regardless of race, color or creed. If you listen to the interview, Rep. Bachmann was making a point about the president's poor understanding of oil prices, which has nothing to do with race. The president doesn't understand the oil market and hence, has gotten himself into a sticky situation.

Even if she did mean it to mean "a sticky traplike situation," doesn't her use of the antique slang seem a little Freudian slip-y, at least? Earlier in the interview, she urged that, when examining Obama's energy policy, we "call a spade a spade."

"Spade" is another racist term occasionally used in reference to black people. Too bad she couldn't work a casual reference to how the President is "enslaving" Americans in there.

21 Lord Baron Viscount Duke Earl Count Planckton  Thu, Apr 19, 2012 2:43:59pm

Speaking of missing, anybody remember Christine O'Donnell? Sharron Angle? Anybody? Anybody? Bueller?..

22 nines09  Thu, Apr 19, 2012 2:44:29pm

re: #20 The Ghost of a Flea

Michele Bachmann Accuses Obama of ‘Waving a Tar Baby in the Air,’ Then Backpedals Like Hell

Update:

No. Really? I'll bet it sounded cute when she spoke it in front of her Magical Mirror.

23 Sol Berdinowitz  Thu, Apr 19, 2012 2:44:58pm

re: #21 Capricious Casserole of Calamity

Speaking of missing, anybody remember Christine O'Donnel? Sharron Angle? Anybody? Anybody? Bueller?..

Rick Santorum? Joe Arpaio? Dick Cheney?

24 Kragar  Thu, Apr 19, 2012 2:45:11pm

Speaking of crazy and stupid...

Catholic League declares Crusade against Jon Stewart over "Vagina Manger"

Catholic League president Bill Donohue comments as follows:

Jon Stewart refused to apologize last night for the unprecedented assault on Christian sensibilities he launched on April 16. In that episode, “The Daily Show” featured a naked woman with her legs spread and a nativity scene ornament placed between her legs; with the picture on the screen, Stewart laughed at what he called the “vagina manger.” To see the picture, click here.

Our effort against Stewart includes asking his most consistent sponsors to pull their advertising (if necessary, we are not ruling out a boycott of their products), and a lengthy public relations campaign. The goal? To get him to apologize. If that doesn’t work, we can guarantee that his reputation will never be the same.

Glad to see Bill Donahue can take time out of his busy schedule attacking the victims of pedophiles to address some of the really big issues facing the Church today.

25 SanFranciscoZionist  Thu, Apr 19, 2012 2:45:30pm

re: #7 Mostly sane, most of the time.

The irony, of course, is that the Uncle Remus Tar Baby story is actually an excellent parable about a protagonist who is overly aggressive, doesn't understand the situation, attacks without seeking more understanding, and jumps to conclusions, thereby hurting himself.

It really does have a good point.

Clearly we need to teach more American folklore in schools.

26 nines09  Thu, Apr 19, 2012 2:45:33pm

re: #13 Expand Your Ground

Newt is still bidding $2.50 per gallon if we elect him...

He'll invade Venezuela.

27 Sol Berdinowitz  Thu, Apr 19, 2012 2:46:33pm

Somebody posted downstairs that "tar baby" also has the association of the illegitimate dark-skinned offspring of the slave-master. As much as he tries to deny it, that baby will always stick to him...

28 SanFranciscoZionist  Thu, Apr 19, 2012 2:46:45pm

re: #21 Capricious Casserole of Calamity

Speaking of missing, anybody remember Christine O'Donnel? Sharron Angle? Anybody? Anybody? Bueller?..

Failures. Now stricken from the record.

29 Bulworth  Thu, Apr 19, 2012 2:47:02pm
The congresswoman values all human life - regardless of race, color or creed. If you listen to the interview, Rep. Bachmann was making a point about the president's poor understanding of oil prices, which has nothing to do with race. The president doesn't understand the oil market and hence, has gotten himself into a sticky situation.

Oh, then maybe the congresswoman could have said something like "The President doesn't understand oil prices or the oil market."

30 kirkspencer  Thu, Apr 19, 2012 2:47:20pm

So is this Bachmann's application interview for the Romney VP slot?

31 Sol Berdinowitz  Thu, Apr 19, 2012 2:47:58pm

re: #26 Loco Mescalero

He'll invade Venezuela.

I seem to recall that Michelle wqas offering $2.00 per gallon if we elected here. I assume she would invade Venezuela and Iran all at once...

32 Mostly sane, most of the time.  Thu, Apr 19, 2012 2:49:13pm

re: #20 The Ghost of a Flea

Michele Bachmann Accuses Obama of ‘Waving a Tar Baby in the Air,’ Then Backpedals Like Hell

Update:

[Link: en.wikipedia.org...]

I first heard this term used by Oscar Wilde in The Importance of Being Earnest. It originally had more to do with elegance of speech and how refined you were. Whatever. Use the right word.

The use of racial connotations is relatively new, and until you posted that, I had never heard that it had such a connotation. I thought the uses had to do with class.

33 The Gender Ambiguity of a Flea  Thu, Apr 19, 2012 2:49:34pm

I'm actually more pissed about her (now repeated) suggestion that the President is profoundly stupid and immature.

Anyone care to investigate how often the phrase "tar baby" has been used in public discourse prior to this? Because it's not a phrase that I've encountered in quite awhile, and I do find it weird that it's come up twice in this manner.

34 SanFranciscoZionist  Thu, Apr 19, 2012 2:49:43pm

Then there was Pat Buchanan with 'nail that coonskin to the wall'--it's not that these things don't have non-racist usages. "Tar-baby" in particular has obvious political meanings, but one of them is not 'distraction'. it's just peculiar how these particular old-fashioned turns of phrase start to come up once there's a black guy they don't like around.

35 Kragar  Thu, Apr 19, 2012 2:50:14pm

I still have fond memories of the time Michelle promised she and her Tea Party stalwarts would ride in like the Light Brigade.

36 nines09  Thu, Apr 19, 2012 2:50:22pm

re: #31 Expand Your Ground

I seem to recall that Michelle wqas offering $2.00 per gallon if we elected here. I assume she would invade Venezuela and Iran all at once...

Nuke 'em all and send in teams to run pipelines to our waiting boats!

37 Targetpractice  Thu, Apr 19, 2012 2:50:26pm

re: #12 Bulworth

So gas prices are too high and it's Obama's fault. Why doesn't Obama do something? What's that? Obama's trying to do something about high gas prices? Who's he think he is, Barack Hugo Castro Chavez? Soshulism! Government takeover of oil! /

Her bit was that Obama's got the "tools" necessary to do something about gas prices, but isn't using them. Thing is, I'm completely clueless as to what these "tools" are. Especially when last year was the first in over a decade that we exported more oil than we imported.

38 SanFranciscoZionist  Thu, Apr 19, 2012 2:51:20pm

re: #35 Kragar

I still have fond memories of the time Michelle promised she and her Tea Party stalwarts would ride in like the Light Brigade.

I remember the Light Brigade reference! That was great.

39 Lord Baron Viscount Duke Earl Count Planckton  Thu, Apr 19, 2012 2:52:29pm

re: #33 The Ghost of a Flea

I'm actually more pissed about her (now repeated) suggestion that the President is profoundly stupid and immature.

Anyone care to investigate how often the phrase "tar baby" has been used in public discourse prior to this? Because it's not a phrase that I've encountered in quite awhile, and I do find it weird that it's come up twice in this manner.

Well, the most obvious place to look ;)

Several United States politicians — including presidential candidates John McCain, John Kerry, and Mitt Romney — have been criticized by civil rights leaders, the media, and fellow politicians for using the "tar baby" metaphor.[9][10][11][12][13][14][15][16][17][18][19] An article in The New Republic argued that people are "unaware that some consider it to have a second meaning as a slur" and it "is an obscure slur, not even known to be so by a substantial proportion of the population.

So no, it's not a racist word by itself, only when used to denigrate someone, esp. minority.

40 sizzzzlerz  Thu, Apr 19, 2012 2:52:33pm

Michelle sincerely regrets the use of the phrase "tar baby". What she meant to say was "waving Aunt Jemima in the air" to deflect the fact that the President has a poor understanding of the price of pancakes.

41 Mostly sane, most of the time.  Thu, Apr 19, 2012 2:54:02pm

re: #35 Kragar

I still have fond memories of the time Michelle promised she and her Tea Party stalwarts would ride in like the Light Brigade.

...and....die....

(Thrumming of guitar)

42 Kragar  Thu, Apr 19, 2012 2:54:35pm

re: #38 SanFranciscoZionist

I remember the Light Brigade reference! That was great.

The reason they couldn't hear them was because of the Russian guns.

43 ProGunLiberal  Thu, Apr 19, 2012 2:54:37pm

I have a Romney anecdote.

I was talking to my Grandfather a few days ago. I eventually got onto the subject of the presidential election and Mitt Romney. My Grandfather tends to be very-coolheaded and rarely shows anger or insults people.

Imagine my surprise when I hear him interrupt me to say "Oh God, I hate him." I've never heard him talk about a politician like that before.

44 elisabeth  Thu, Apr 19, 2012 2:55:54pm

re: #37 Targetpractice

I believe the tool includes "drill, baby, drill."

45 goddamnedfrank  Thu, Apr 19, 2012 2:55:56pm

Choot-spa!

46 wrenchwench  Thu, Apr 19, 2012 2:55:59pm
“This is just about waving a tar baby in the air and saying that something else is a problem,”

It sounds like she really meant 'straw man'. Which is about as far from a tar baby as you can get.

47 nines09  Thu, Apr 19, 2012 2:56:34pm

re: #40 sizzzzlerz

Michelle sincerely regrets the use of the phrase "tar baby". What she meant to say was "waving Aunt Jemima in the air" to deflect the fact that the President has a poor understanding of the price of pancakes.

She meant to say that the monkey he wants to throw on the back of speculators (regulations) should get back on the porch. Where they belong.

48 Kragar  Thu, Apr 19, 2012 2:56:58pm

re: #41 Mostly sane, most of the time.

...and...die...

(Thrumming of guitar)

PS: thanks you tube, when I click on an Iron Maiden link, it must obviously mean I need to see the latest Nicki Minaj ad.

49 Mostly sane, most of the time.  Thu, Apr 19, 2012 2:58:09pm

re: #48 Kragar

[Embedded content] PS: thanks you tube, when I click on an Iron Maiden link, it must obviously mean I need to see the latest Nicki Minaj ad.

I get the latest such ad (Nick Minaj, pop queen, etc.) no matter who I click on. Blue grass grammy winner, ironic hipster, classical music played on mandolin.

50 TedStriker  Thu, Apr 19, 2012 2:59:13pm

re: #20 The Ghost of a Flea

Michele Bachmann Accuses Obama of ‘Waving a Tar Baby in the Air,’ Then Backpedals Like Hell

Update:

My issue with this update is this:

Even if she did mean it to mean "a sticky traplike situation," doesn't her use of the antique slang seem a little Freudian slip-y, at least? Earlier in the interview, she urged that, when examining Obama's energy policy, we "call a spade a spade."

"Spade" is another racist term occasionally used in reference to black people. Too bad she couldn't work a casual reference to how the President is "enslaving" Americans in there.

Yes, "spade" has been used to pejoratively refer to black folks, but "call a spade a spade" predates that usage by a long, long time. Quoth the Wiki:

To "call a spade a spade" is to speak honestly and directly about a topic, specifically topics that others may avoid speaking about due to their sensitivity or embarrassing nature. Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (1913) defines it as
“ To be outspoken, blunt, even to the point of rudeness; to call things by their proper names without any "beating about the bush". ”

Its ultimate source is Plutarch's Apophthegmata Laconica (178B) which has την σκαφην σκαφην λεγοντας (ten skafen skafen legontas). σκαφη (skafe) means "basin, trough", but Erasmus mis-translated it (as if from σπάθη spáthe) as ligo "shovel" in his Apophthegmatum opus. Lucian De Hist. Conscr. (41) has τα συκα συκα, την σκαφην δε σκαφην ονομασων (ta suka suka, ten skafen de skafen onomason) "calling a fig a fig, and a trough a trough".

The phrase was introduced to English in 1542 in Nicolas Udall's translation of Erasmus, Apophthegmes, that is to saie, prompte saiynges. First gathered by Erasmus:

Philippus aunswered, that the Macedonians wer feloes of no fyne witte in their termes but altogether grosse, clubbyshe, and rusticall, as they whiche had not the witte to calle a spade by any other name then a spade.

It is evident that the word spade refers to the instrument used to move earth, a very common tool. The same word was used in England and in Holland, Erasmus' country of origin.

The Oxford English Dictionary records a more forceful variant, "to call a spade a bloody shovel", attested since 1919.

The phrase predates the use of the word "spade" as an ethnic slur against African Americans, which was not recorded until 1928; however, in contemporary U.S. society, the idiom is often avoided due to potential confusion with the slur[1] and/or confusion with playing card references such as "black as the ace of spades".

Context is everything and there is no excuse for intellectual laziness.

51 The Gender Ambiguity of a Flea  Thu, Apr 19, 2012 2:59:43pm

re: #37 Targetpractice

Her bit was that Obama's got the "tools" necessary to do something about gas prices, but isn't using them. Thing is, I'm completely clueless as to what these "tools" are. Especially when last year was the first in over a decade that we exported more oil than we imported.

re: #44 elisabeth

I believe the tool includes "drill, baby, drill."

and tax holidays, subsidies, and free lap dances.

52 Targetpractice  Thu, Apr 19, 2012 3:01:14pm

re: #51 The Ghost of a Flea

re: #44 elisabeth

and tax holidays, subsidies, and free lap dances.

All of which (perhaps not the lap dances) are things that Congress has to vote upon, not something that Obama can do himself.

53 Lord Baron Viscount Duke Earl Count Planckton  Thu, Apr 19, 2012 3:04:29pm

re: #33 The Ghost of a Flea

Tony Snow:

Having said that, I don't want to hug the tar baby of trying to comment on the program -- the alleged program -- the existence of which I can neither confirm nor deny.

John Kerry:

"Everybody on my staff, everybody I knew thought I was crazy, and said, 'Don't do this,' " he recalls. "They said it's a no-win tar baby."

Also later.

John McCain:

For me to stand here and ... say I'm going to declare divorces invalid because of someone who feels they weren't treated fairly in court, we are getting into a tar baby of enormous proportions and I don't know how you get out of that.

Mitt Romney:

Gov. Mitt Romney has apologized for referring to the city's troubled highway commuter tunnel project as a "tar baby" during a fundraiser with Iowa Republicans, saying he did not know anyone would be offended by the term some consider a racial epithet.

Molly Ivins:

It now looks, with 20-20 hindsight, as though he should have taken a few more deep breaths before smacking that tar-baby that is Afghanistan.

And here's a clearly racist usage from Representative Doug Lamborn (R-CO):

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.

That's about Obama BTW.

So it all depends on context.

54 The Gender Ambiguity of a Flea  Thu, Apr 19, 2012 3:07:15pm

re: #50 GnarlyGnomeOfGnowledge

My issue with this update is this:

Yes, "spade" is been used to pejoratively refer to black folks, but "call a spade a spade" predates that usage by a long, long time. Quoth the Wiki:

Context is everything and there is no excuse for intellectual laziness.

First...note that I block quoted what I linked from Jezebel. It's not my opinion or a statement I endorse.

Second, I'm fully aware of the origin of the phrase "call a spade a spade." And I can use Wikipedia.

Third, please note that I've posted in the last thread that I don't think it's purposeful dog whistle.

Finally--the "context" is criticizing a black man that she also describes as infantile, a fraud, and an incompetent. Plus she's doing a bunch of lying about energy policy. If I was going by the context--the show she was on, the audience, as well as her record of inflammatory and insulting remarks, I would have zero reason to give her the benefit of the doubt.

55 TedStriker  Thu, Apr 19, 2012 3:15:51pm

re: #54 The Ghost of a Flea

First...note that I block quoted what I linked from Jezebel. It's not my opinion or a statement I endorse.

Second, I'm fully aware of the origin of the phrase "call a spade a spade." And I can use Wikipedia.

Third, please note that I've posted in the last thread that I don't think it's purposeful dog whistle.

Finally--the "context" is criticizing a black man that she also describes as infantile, a fraud, and an incompetent. Plus she's doing a bunch of lying about energy policy. If I was going by the context--the show she was on, the audience, as well as her record of inflammatory and insulting remarks, I would have zero reason to give her the benefit of the doubt.

Sorry, I wasn't pinning anything on you, but my edit time expired before I could clarify my comment, which would have read:

Context is everything and there is no excuse for intellectual laziness, especially from journalists.

Frankly, I could give two shits about Bachmann, because she's the RWNJ from Hell, so I'm not inclined to give her the benefit of the doubt on much. However, I'm also not going to parse absolutely everything she says for racist intent, like that Jezebel writer apparently was doing.

We cool?

56 nines09  Thu, Apr 19, 2012 3:16:42pm

News Flash. Most folks never read Uncle Remus and the usage of the term tar baby to those has no bearing whatsoever except as an insult in certain quarters. Let's call a spade a spade here.

57 The Gender Ambiguity of a Flea  Thu, Apr 19, 2012 3:18:59pm

re: #55 GnarlyGnomeOfGnowledge

Sorry, I wasn't pinning anything on you, but my edit time expired before I could clarify my comment, which would have read:

Frankly, I could give two shits about Bachmann, because she's the RWNJ from Hell, so I'm not inclined to give her the benefit of the doubt on much, but I'm also not going to parse absolutely everything she says for racist intent, like that Jezebel writer apparently was doing.

We cool?

We good. I wasn't so much being sharp as precise okay...there was some sharpness there, but not any real anger.

When I was reading it I just figured it's Jezebel and that the author's comment about "spade is a spade" was snark rather than actual belief that it was a purposeful dogwhistle.

58 Lord Baron Viscount Duke Earl Count Planckton  Thu, Apr 19, 2012 3:19:55pm

re: #56 Loco Mescalero

News Flash. Most folks never read Uncle Remus and the usage of the term tar baby to those has no bearing whatsoever except as an insult in certain quarters. Let's call a spade a spade here.

Most people actually don't seem to know about its secondary usage as a racist slur.

[Link: www.tnr.com...]

Thus a reasonable analysis is that people reach for this useful metaphor, within the rapid and subconscious activity that speaking entails, unaware that some consider it to have a second meaning as a slur.

And the “some” that do appear to be in the minority. The Oxford English Dictionary mentions tar baby as a slur online, but not in print. The American Heritage Dictionary, notoriously attuned to everyday usage, does not refer to the slur usage. I, for one, am well aware that there are slurs for black people that are less prominent than the N-word—porch monkey is one that comes up now and then, although I have only heard it referred to, not applied—but only in 2006 did I catch that tar baby was one of them.

If my experience were universal, then no dictionary entry would list it as a slur at all, of course. However, I do not live in a cave, nor do the countless people currently learning for the first time that tar baby is a slur—and I recall assorted media writers equally perplexed when I did interviews on this back in 2006. Tar baby, it seems, is an obscure slur, not even known to be so by a substantial proportion of the population.

[...]

Tar baby is one of those intermediate cases: The basic meaning is the folkloric one, while a derived meaning, known only to a segment of American English speakers (and to many among them, only vaguely) is a dismissive reference to black people.

59 The Gender Ambiguity of a Flea  Thu, Apr 19, 2012 3:21:45pm

re: #56 Loco Mescalero

News Flash. Most folks never read Uncle Remus and the usage of the term tar baby to those has no bearing whatsoever except as an insult in certain quarters. Let's call a spade a spade here.

How about calling "a fig a fig, and a trough a trough"? (trough is what was mis-translated to shovel back in the day).

I like the old formulation better the commonly-used one.

60 gwangung  Thu, Apr 19, 2012 3:23:40pm

re: #58 Capricious Casserole of Calamity

Hm. I'm less than reassured by a reference from The New Republic, who've made it a lifestyle to be insulated from such crass things as ethnic slurs.

61 Lord Baron Viscount Duke Earl Count Planckton  Thu, Apr 19, 2012 3:26:06pm

re: #60 gwangung

Hm. I'm less than reassured by a reference from The New Republic, who've made it a lifestyle to be insulated from such crass things as ethnic slurs.

Then look up John McWhorter. Who is not only a liberal, African-American, but also a linguist, the last one being the most important.

62 jaunte  Thu, Apr 19, 2012 3:29:59pm

A rose by any other name would be all thumbs.

63 TedStriker  Thu, Apr 19, 2012 3:39:00pm

re: #61 Capricious Casserole of Calamity

Then look up John McWhorter. Who is not only a liberal, African-American, but also a linguist, the last one being the most important.

Is he a cunning linguist?

///

64 Lord Baron Viscount Duke Earl Count Planckton  Thu, Apr 19, 2012 3:39:25pm

re: #63 GnarlyGnomeOfGnowledge

Well, somebody had to.

65 TedStriker  Thu, Apr 19, 2012 3:41:03pm

re: #56 Loco Mescalero

News Flash. Most folks never read Uncle Remus and the usage of the term tar baby to those has no bearing whatsoever except as an insult in certain quarters. Let's call a spade a spade here.

Well played...

66 Kragar  Thu, Apr 19, 2012 3:43:42pm

re: #63 GnarlyGnomeOfGnowledge

Is he a cunning linguist?

///

Nope, gladiator.

67 Bunky Bunk  Thu, Apr 19, 2012 4:15:07pm

re: #24 Kragar

That dude doesn't realize how much of a joke he is, does he? He's already received the South Park treatment.

68 ContinentalOp  Thu, Apr 19, 2012 4:18:52pm

No one reads the Uncle Remus stories any more because JC Harris wrote them in a racist parody of African-American dialect, but the stories themselves are quite good. Some of them are based on Yoruba folktales. Generally, the weak outwit the strong. Someday someone is going to hit the jackpot by rewriting them in language that isn't offensive.

69 nines09  Thu, Apr 19, 2012 4:22:00pm

re: #58 Capricious Casserole of Calamity

I suggest they go to an inner city/backwoods mostly black restaurant and during the course of dining use the term Tar Baby is some context as as Uncle Remus eloquently used. Loudly. So others can hear. You may have some 'splainin to do.

70 Lord Baron Viscount Duke Earl Count Planckton  Thu, Apr 19, 2012 5:00:58pm

re: #69 Loco Mescalero

Since that would be a provocation, the usage would be clearly offensive. Hardly a probative situation.

71 Mattand  Thu, Apr 19, 2012 5:25:55pm
Come on, you missed her, didn’t you? Admit it.

No.

72 Ming  Thu, Apr 19, 2012 6:39:11pm

In addition to the racism, to speak of "waving a baby around in the air" is pretty darn creepy all by itself.


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