Thursday, September 04, 2008

You can't tell me someone from Georgia...

doesn't know the racist overtones of the word "uppity."

Here's a quote from Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-Georgia):

Just from what little I’ve seen of her [Michelle Obama - CB] and Mr. Obama, Sen. Obama, they're a member of an elitist-class individual that thinks that they're uppity.

Republicans have been flirting with the "uppity" image for a while, I just never thought that one of them would be brazen enough to actually use the word, use it on the record, and then clarify that yes, in fact he used it and meant to use it.

That's some racist shit.

Republicans to the Obamas: Get back in your place!

[Note: This post was typed while chillin' to Stevie Wonder's Songs in the Key of Life. By the time "Black Man" came on, I just knew I had to post on this.]

5 comments:

Garpu said...

*sigh* how could anyone have a pulse and not be aware of the connotations of the word "uppity?"

brian beech said...

Being from the deep south, I must inform you that the word "uppity" is not used as a racist remark down there. It simply means that someone thinks they are above all of the surrounding "common folk".

I heard this word my entire life and never once (that I can recall) was it used to describe a person of color.

It seems quite funny to me that everyone here (Louisville and surrounding areas) is so concerned about racism when the white population is almost completely segregated from the black population. Maybe a trip to Mississippi would open some eyes and see that all these people you accuse of being racists are interacting with 5X as many black people as anyone up here.

Being color blind is not something, the democrats or the people who are so "concerned" about race relations, are able to do.

Sandalstraps said...

Brian,

I totally agree with you about Louisville, which I consider to be one of the most racist cities in America. Not only do we - with the exception of the area in Old Louisville between roughly 3rd and 6th - have an almost exclusively segregated population, even our most famous event, the Kentucky Derby, exhibits extreme racism.

As you well know, during the Derby the West End (for those outside Louisville, the West End is a predominantly working class black area) is put under a quasi-police state. The streets are shut down, businesses are closed, commerce interrupted. While the predominantly white areas of the city are enjoying the economic boom that comes with the influx of tourists eager to part with cash, businesses in predominantly black areas are shut down.

No white person from Louisville can call anyone out on racism without also looking in the mirror and asking themselves hard questions about how they participate in a racist local economy.

Also, while the Deep South is rightly denigrated for actively resisting integration, places like Louisville passively resisted integration for a great deal longer. In fact, our schools still suffer from far to much de facto segregation.

I also can't speak to the way that the word "uppity" functioned in white communities in the Deep South, when referring to white people, while you were growing up.

But I can say that the word has a history, right alongside the N-word and, say, "boy." In fact, the use of "boy" may be the most relevant example. Used among whites to refer to other whites, it is not necessarily pejorative. However, when its use crosses the racial line, its meaning - independent of the conscious intention of the speaker - changes, as a product of the history of its use.

So when, for instance, Rep. Geoff Davis (R-KY), says of Barack Obama (as he did on April 12):

I’m going to tell you something: That boy’s finger does not need to be on the button. He could not make a decision in that simulation that related to a nuclear threat to this country.

the meaning is quite different than when, say, I refer to Adam as "my boy." There, not only is Davis implying that voting for Obama could lead directly or indirectly to the destruction of our nation, he is also employing a racist strategy used throughout America (by no means limited to the Deep South, though certainly also employed there) of dehumanization. He is participating in the long tradition of black adults being referred to by white society as children, as less than full members of society.

Refusal to accept the term "boy," as you no doubt know, could lead to physical and structural violence. Thus the pejorative must at least be publicly displayed as having been internalized.

"Uppity" functions in the same way in this context. Its history cannot be separated easily from its contemporary usage. And, given that history and our (white) collective participation in it, white people are ill equipped to judge when such a word can be appropriately employed in describing a black person - much less the first black person to be a major party's nominee for president of the United States.

Sandalstraps said...

Brian,

I'd also like to add that I'm not sure that color-blindness is a virtue. It requires that we not consider someone's race, their ethnicity, their culture, as a part of their personhood. This is a tool that has too often been used by dominant cultures to suppress minority cultures.

I cannot conceive of you apart from your respective contexts, nor can I conceive of some of my black friends apart from theirs. That backdrop is an appropriate part of the description of a person.

Being anti-racist does not entail denying the reality of race (at least as a cultural construct); it entails eliminating both public and private discrimination on the basis of race. It requires, in other words, a celebration of difference rather than a denial of it, while also looking for common ground.

We've found this principle at work in our own friendship; only here it applies to religion rather than race. For either of us to gloss over the differences in our respective expressions of Christianity would, I believe we have discovered, do the other a great disservice. We get along in the midst of our differences, rather than by agreeing not to notice them.

I affirm you as a conservative Christian, you affirm me as a liberal Christian. Our differences are real and significant, but they point to essential truths about us. I would neither know nor love you if I were to interact with you as someone other than who you are.

Liam said...

I agree with you about "color-blindness." It is usually suggested by well-meaning white people, but it perpetuates the mistaken idea that racism is nothing more than an individual choice, rather than something with deep cultural and structural roots. That's why often black people and white people perceive racism in a different way. White people have the luxury and privilege to pretend that saying there is no racism makes it go away. Black people know from their own experience that's not true.

As far as the Rep. Westmoreland goes, not only was his statement deeply racist, but so incoherently expressed that I wonder how a babbling fool like that could ever get as far as congress.