Congressman Doug Lamborn (R-CO) issued an apology today for saying last week, on a Denver radio program, that being attached to President Obama’s policies is like ‘touching a tar baby.’ Apparently, some people took umbrage at these remarks on the grounds that the term is racist. A video of the apology follows.
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, ‘tar baby’ is defined as something from which it is nearly impossible to extricate oneself. As we may recall, the term originated in Uncle Remus, where a doll was made out of tar in order to entrap an individual. Some individuals now feel that there is a racial implication to the term, and 200 people felt the need to protest the Congressman’s words. In his apology, Lamborn said he should have used the term ‘quagmire’ instead, which apparently has few racial connotations, except for the Quags, who as we all know, enjoy living in marshes.
This reminds me of one of my favorite incidents in the modern politics of racial relations. Way back in 1999, David Howard, who was Director of the Office of the Public Advocate in DC under Mayor Anthony Williams, was forced to resign for referring to spending for his agency as ‘niggardly’. The mayor had replaced that halcyon of integrity, Marion Berry, as chief executive in our nation’s capital. According to many interest group leaders, ‘niggardly’ could be regarded as a racial epithet even though its means stingy. Finally, a few weeks later, after the laughter from the nation abated, Williams rescinded the resignation and moved Howard to a different position, presumably one where he would be less apt to use such inflammatory terms, in the minds of those who depend upon the support of the barely literate. By the way, I heard that Al Sharpton now has his own program on MSNBC. I’m unclear if Tawana Brawley is a co-host.
So, we’re in a time where real unemployment in the African-American community is hovering between 25% -30%, where an incredibly high number of African-American males are residing in prison, where it is more typical for a birth to be out of wedlock than in a married family. We also have the incongruity that, in recent times, there are a number of African-American Congressional Representatives who have shown themselves to be ethically bereft, and yet continue to be re-elected with over 80% of the vote. But this is the big problem that deserves redress, using a term that can be misconstrued. It’s always good to have your priorities in order. Well done.
Here’s the video of the news report from KTTV-TV: