Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Don't Compromise on Tar Baby

For the past couple of years, President Obama has endured a lot from angry voters and politicians from the other side of the aisle. While the political environment is generally hostile in America, with scrutiny of politicians' personal lives and character assassinations being commonplace, but the vitriol aimed at the President was different this time around. The newly created Tea Party featured many bigoted voters, proudly waving signs that caricatured him as a monkey or alleging Kenya as his true birthplace. Quite simply, the President was subjected to a fair amount of racism.

Such antics didn't come as a surprise for most black people, considering we already were aware of how pervasive racist sentiments are. Yet Rep. Doug Lamborn's (R-CO) comments last week on a political radio show were particularly outrageous and the overall reaction that followed was alarming. The quote:
“Now I don’t even want to have to be associated with [Obama], it’s like touching a tar baby and you’re stuck, you’re part of the problem now. You can’t get away.” 
He called the President a tar baby! Merriam Webster define's tar baby as "something from which it is nearly impossible to extricate oneself." However, anybody with a brain knows that the Congressman was referring to the racism term, prevalent in the early 20th Century along with other racist caricatures like pickanney, porchmonkey, coon and Sambo.

Having apologized more than a week after making the comment, the Congressman apologized  for "using a term some find insensitive" and also had the audacity to assume his half-assed apology was sufficient, telling the Denver Post, "I am sure that he will not take offense and that he'll be happy to accept my apology because he is a man of character." Wow.

And you know what is more absurd that Lamborn's usage of a racial slur and his determination of what (black) people should be offended by? Obama has not even acknowledged the comments. Some will argue that there is enough on his plate for him to have to worry about some dipshit calling him a previously archaic racist term. I was then reminded by how deep this racist stuff is. It is so deep that the most powerful man in this country is still not empowered enough to defend himself against people who are perpetually disrespectful towards him.

I was listening to the Michael Baisden show yesterday where many listeners called in to display their anger over the incident. He and his co-host, George Willborn, spoke about standing up for the President and organizing a campaign to have Congressman Lamborn appropriately punished. He tweeted during the show my exact same sentiments, “What's really sad is that some of us are so numb we don't even realize how allowing the President to be called "Tar Baby" affects our standing in the world as a nation and respectability as black people in particular! – MB”

I am only of the many angry liberal voters who have been disillusioned with President Obama's unimpressive economic policy, especially in light of the recent debt ceiling ordeal. With his continued compliance with Republicans, he underestimates how this strategy has damaged his political standing among his base. Progressives- not independents- were the ones who worked tirelessly to get him elected. More importantly, his inability to counter layered racism charged at him is weakening the already low morale of the country. How do you allow yourself to compromise people who think you are a tar baby?

Granted the god awful GOP considered Bill Clinton to be an illegitimate president but they don't even think you are a legitimate person, Obama. Yet you continue to subject yourself to disrespect for the sake of what? Bipartisanship? Not being the angry black guy? You pass anti-progressive legislation that will certainly impact black people disproportionately, especially our poor, but we still will stand up for you when you are called a tar baby. That is because we know how it feels to be disenfranchised and not have the support system needed to challenge our encounters with racism. But you have that power, Mr. President. You have that ability to show that racism is not tolerable, even if it ceases to end.

What does this say the sista, the lone black person in her Intro to Sociology class, who slides down in her chair with embarrassment while some white liberal goes on a diatribe about how race doesn't exist because it is a social construct. Or what about the black man being coerced to take a plea for a crime he didn't commit by an overzealous prosecutor and lackadaisical public defendant. Mr. President, your silence  towards racism hinders whatever racial progress can possibly occur under your presidency. Black people, no matter how structurally powerless we are, stand up for you because we have strength in solidarity. However, you President Obama have strength in your power. Use it!

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