Being hypersensitive to insults is a hallmark of immaturity. If you are confident about yourself and your actions, then snide or insulting comments by others are not a big deal. But for some insecure people, the mere mention of a word they don’t like–regardless of its true meaning–is enough to outrage them. This is what happened several years ago when:
… teacher Stephanie Bell said she used the word “niggardly,” which means stingy or miserly, during a discussion about literary characters. But parent Akwana Walker, who is black, protested the use of the word, saying it offended her because it sounds similar to a racial slur.
Walker was not upset because the teacher uttered a racial slur, but because it sounded like a racial slur to her — it’s not the facts, but how she feels that matters.
Tony Snow got in trouble when he said “hug the tar baby” in a press conference, but he’s not the only person to recently say this. While at a fund raiser in Iowa, Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney used the term when speaking about the Big Dig ceiling collapse. He defended his taking over the Big Dig project after a woman died in a collapse of the tunnel even though it could be a large political problem for him. He defended his action by pointing out that no action at all on his part would have been even worse. And then he said it — “The best thing politically would be to stay as far away from that tar baby as I can.”
I’ll give you a moment to recover from the shock of it.
Now that you are back on your feet and the tang of smelling salts is fading from the air, I have to ask a fairly simple question: did the Governor use the phrase “tar baby” in a racist way to label a black person, or was he talking about a sticky situation? It’s obvious from the context of his remarks that Gov. Romney was using the latter definition. But that really doesn’t matter. People who dislike Gov. Romney politically are upset by the phrase. Race-baiting poverty pimps are upset by the phrase. And hypersensitive people who see issues of race and prejudice in every action are upset by the phrase.
If someone ever speaks of a tar baby, ask yourself whether the phrase is being used to refer to a person or a sticky situation. Referring to a person that way is not acceptable, but using it to mean a sticky situation that is hard to get out of is not a racist phrase. It may sound like something objectionable, but it is no more racist than the word niggardly is racist, regardless of what it sounds like or how people feel about it.
I find it interesting that many of the same people who are resoundingly criticizing Mel Gibson for his verbal abuse during his drunk driving arrest don’t seem to bat an eye when Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad utters his own anti-Jewish remarks while (presumably) stone-cold sober. But that’s neither here nor there. What really caught my eye about this issue with Gov. Romney was the following headline:
Gov. Mitt Romney has apologized for referring to the troubled Big Dig construction project as a “tar baby” during a fundraiser with Iowa Republicans, saying he didn’t know anyone would be offended by the term some consider a racial epithet….
Black leaders were outraged at his use of the term, which dates to the 19th century Uncle Remus stories, referring to a doll made of tar that traps Br’er Rabbit. It has come to be known as a way of describing a sticky mess, and has also been used as a derogatory term for a black person.
“Tar baby is a totally inappropriate phrase in the 21st century,” said Larry Jones, a black Republican and civil rights activist….
Romney’s spokesman, Eric Fehrnstrom, said the governor was describing “a sticky situation.”
“He was unaware that some people find the term objectionable and he’s sorry if anyone’s offended,” Fehrnstrom said.
Fehrnstrom produced copies of editorials and columns from Boston newspapers using “tar baby” in a context similar to Romney’s. One example from 2004, a Herald editorial, used the term about the Big Dig itself.
Gov. Romney should have learned the lesson that every conservative must learn: never apologize to the Left. Doing so only encourages them to whine and complain more.