Thursday, July 24, 2008

Misplaced Mistaken Outrage

... over Sen. Kerry's use of the term 'tar-baby'. You will note that I did not say false outrage. I do not think that Renee over at Womanist Musings is being disingenuous when she claims to be outraged. She is outraged. But she is outraged in error. She has the video posted on her blog so you can watch it there to judge for yourself.

She is acting like he called someone a 'tar-baby'. He did not. He used the word in its original meaning - a sticky problem that only entangles you more them harder you struggle. What he did was not like calling a black man a 'spade'. What he did is like using the word 'spade' to refer to the black card suit with pips shaped like spear heads. This is an argument that will likely turn out to be a tar-baby for me but we must stop running from the difficult topic of race. People of good will must speak about these things in the effort to increase understanding across the color line for so long as it exists.

In her post and comments she argues that the common vernacular meaning of the word is the racist word. I cannot argue with that because I am not a part of her vernacular community. Neither is the Senator. He has probably spent less time in his life around openly racist people who use racial insults than I have. And I do not recall hearing this term used as a racial insult, even though I have been exposed to an amazing variety of these terms. I have encountered people who refer to it as one but not heard it myself. I have also not heard it used in its original meaning very often. It is rapidly falling out of use all together.

She also argues in the comments,

BTW what I deem to be racist against WOC is far more accurate than your determination simply because I inhabit the body that I do. This is one of those times Larry when you listen to views of POC and put aside your inclinations.
This is the sort of argument that by design is racist and shuts down the discussion rather than opens it up. She may be able to more accurately say what a WOC finds offensive than I am, but she does not have any special insight into the way that Sen Kerry and his peers use language and that is at least as central to this argument as how she feels about it. It is obvious from the context that the over-educated elite white male was ignorant of the racial implications of the word he used. He used it in a clearly non-racial context in its original meaning. He is likely to issue an apology because of the controversy that his ignorant choice of words caused but that firestorm has only served to distract from the actual content of what he was saying. He was defending Sen Obama from a scurrilous attack and no one will note his defense of our candidate because we had to digress into the language of personal affront.

1 comment:

Meadester said...

Maybe, Kerry's words were deliberately chosen for their controversial nature. Since the candidate he is supporting is Black, it can't be said he was trying to appeal to racists, but maybe he was trying to appeal to people fed up with all of the politically correct bullshit. That must indeed be a large voting bloc.