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Doug Lamborn And The Tar Baby

Doug Lamborn, the conservative Representative of Colorado, caught a little flak for saying that working with President Barack Obama on the debt ceiling was like touching a tar baby.  For people who are sensitive to issues of race, Mr. Lamborn made a woefully poor choice of words.  While he may have been technically correct in the usage of the words, the phrase “tar baby” has been used as a derogatory reference to black people.  Someone with some understanding of the black community would think twice about using the word with reference to a black person, let alone America’s first black President.  A person with all the racial compassion of a mound of elephant dung would welcome the chance to go where people who want to avoid controversy would fear to tread.

This is by no means something new to American politics.  The term “tar baby” landed Arizona Senator John McCain and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney in hot water in the fairly recent past.  And former White House Press Secretary Tony Snow used the word in a press conference during the Bush administration and caught a bit of heat for the reference.  All were correctly using the phrase as a reference to being involved in a nasty yet sticky situation, and they weren’t even referring to anything related to a black person or people.  Why Mr. Lamborn chose to use the phrase as a reference to Mr. Obama is truly suspect of some need to push the racially acceptable envelope.  A white conservative political leader using this particular phrase in reference to a black liberal political leader, with an obvious history of being the victim of conservative’s racial bigotry, and you have the perfect conditions for racial disharmony.  To say otherwise is to plead racially deaf, dumb, and most importantly, stupid.

People who come to Mr. Lamborn’s defense dismiss this sordid affair as nothing more than political correctness run amok.  Despite the racial connotations, Mr. Lamborn was technically correct in his description of working with Mr. Obama.  Therefore, any claim of racism is just plain wrong.  At best, this is a weak argument.  At worse, it’s the flawed reasoning of nincompoops.  The word nigger technically refers to a person who is stingy.  And yet, no one of reasonable intellect would ignore the racial slur association with the word.  While it might be technically correct for a white person to call a black person a nigger for being tightfisted, the racist implication would make itself evident instantaneously.

A phrase can be used in a technically correct way and still be inappropriate.  If someone was to call Mr. Lamborn a motherfucker, technically they’d be correct.  While the person using the term may not have take to the bank proof, it would be a reasonable assumption that Mr. Lamborn had sexual intercourse with his wife, the mother of his five children.  Therefore, it would be true that he was indeed a motherfucker.  But while it may be true that the term was technically correct it doesn’t negate the fact that reasonable people may find its usage offensive and therefore should be avoided.  It wouldn’t be considered political correctness run amok.  It would be considered old fashioned good manners in polite company.

Back in 2008, responding to the racism association as a member of the Reverend Jeremiah Wright controversy, Mr. Obama referred to his flesh and blood white grandmother as a typical white woman.  Now, if you want to talk about political correctness run amok, here is a prime example of people reaching where nothing exist.  Mr. Obama was accused of being racist and throwing his poor grandma under the bus.  But what’s racist about calling a white person a typical white person?  Unless being a typical white person is somehow racially derogatory, why even go there?  With little doubt, many of the people who are lining up to defend Mr. Lamborn of his racially insensitive reference to Mr. Obama would have been the same ones condemning Mr. Obama for his totally benign statement regarding his grandmother.  Talk about the pot calling the kettle black.

Mr. Lamborn isn’t some neophyte to politics.  Prior to his current stint as a member of the House of Representatives, Mr. Lamborn served in the Colorado state legislature in both the House and Senate from 1995 through 2006.  In his private, non-public service career he was an attorney in Colorado Springs specializing in business and real estate law.  Despite his stupidity, he’s no dummy.  He knew exactly where he was going when he made the choice to use the “tar baby”.  He wanted to make a clear statement to his potential supporters that he isn’t afraid to call a spade a spade.  And in the process, Mr. Lamborn wanted to create his own tar baby, a sticky situation that should have been avoided.

But the usage of the term as a reference to the white Mr. Lamborn doesn’t really carry the same stigma as it does for a black person.  For many people, the racially disparaging implications of such a phrase can far outweigh its technically correct applications.   Any motherfucker would know that.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011 - Posted by | African Americans, Barack Obama, Black Community, Black Culture, Black People, Life, Racism, Thoughts | ,

1 Comment »

  1. “Any motherfucker would know that.”

    I don’t think my sexual relations with someone’s mother has anything to do with knowing any of this like I do, Brother P!

    Comment by mikelovell | Tuesday, August 9, 2011 | Reply

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