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White House Press Secretary Tony Snow's Tar-Baby

Think Progress and Crooks and Liars both note White House Press Secretary Tony Snow's use of the term 'Tar-Baby" at a press conference yesterday.

CBS REPORTER: Why not declassify [the NSA's call records database]? I mean, the President did talk about the surveillance program a day after the New York Times broke that story. This would seem to affect far more people and it did sound like the President was confirming that story today when he was answering questions.


SNOW: If you go back and look through what he said, there was a reference of foreign to domestic calls. I am not going to stand up here and presume to declassify any kind of program. That is a decision the President has to make. I can't confirm or deny it. The President was not confirming or denying. Again, I would take you back to the USA Today story to give you a little context. Look at the poll that appeared the following day [...] something like 65% of the public was not troubled by it. Having said that, I don't want to hug the tar baby of trying to comment on the program... the alleged program, the existence of which I can neither confirm or deny.

John Amato even links to three stories (1, 2, 3) that, he says, show people have been fired for using the term. I read those three stories, and no one gets fired...

That's where Amato and TP lost me. Snow's use of the term, while open to debate about it's suitability for the occasion, is in keeping with the established definition of the term, and in character with Joel Chandler Harris's Uncle Remus stories.

Is the term used as a derogatory term for black people? Occasionally, yes. Is more commonly used otherwise? Absolutely, as Kim Pearson's examination details. In fact Toni Morrison has a Nobel prize winning novel tittled Tar Baby, which was a modern take on the fable.

The only instance in my life I can recall hearing "tar-baby" spoken in public as an insult was in the Saturday Night Live "Job Interview" skit featuring Richard Pryor and Chevy Chase trading racist terms as part of a word association game gone awry.

All that's somewhat besides the point. The question is was the usage racist, or was it perceived to be racist. Snow explained himself during the press conference and address the issue much more expansively, in a roundabout way, seven years ago in his column about David Howard and the word "niggardly."

(JWR - Feb. 1, 1999) DAVID HOWARD COMMITTED A POTENTIALLY FATAL CAREER MISTAKE on Jan. 15, Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday. The then-head of the Washington, D.C., Office of Public Advocate, while talking to colleagues about budgetary matters, used the word "niggardly."


Before long, a retinue of hot dogs and race-baiters took to the street corners, demanding swift justice. On Jan. 27, they won. Howard apologized for his language and then resigned.

Note several things: The word "niggardly" has no etymological relationship to the "N"-word. Howard used it appropriately.

More importantly, nobody ever accused Howard of racism. He's a restaurateur who gave up his career to promote the candidacy of the District's new mayor, Anthony Williams. Nobody ever accused him of lacking commitment. Some mayoral aides describe him as "the glue" of Williams' election campaign. Nobody ever accused him of bilking the public. He worked long hours and took a pay cut to work for the city. Nobody ever accused him of insensitivity. He has lived in the city for 16 years. Nobody who endured through the Marion Barry era can be bereft of hair-trigger racial sensitivities.

Nevertheless, Howard is gone and, worse, the mayor lauded his decision, citing the need for people to exercise appropriate discretion when talking. If this episode doesn't capture the sublime weirdness of our age, nothing does. David Howard got fired because some people in public employ were morons who a) didn't know the meaning of "niggardly," b) didn't know how to use a dictionary to discover the word's meaning and c) actually demanded that he apologize for their ignorance.

Our language makes us all susceptible to being suckered by the votaries of division and derision. The English tongue features more words and nuances than any other. Bigots regularly appropriate everyday words for vile uses. But do their abuses mean that nobody can use such locutions as "chink in the armor," "a nip in the air," "spic 'n' span" or "cheese and crackers?"

Some people are arguing that in the current case the answer to that last question is, "yes." Basically they're asking Snow to apologize for his expansive vocabulary; used correctly, and their misunderstanding of the reference.

As the folks at The Straight Dope note;

Sure, you don't want to offend anyone deliberately, but there's a fine line between not being a jerk and examining every word you speak for nuances that might be misinterpreted by people who don't understand them.

While Snow may want to clarify, he's got no reason to apologize.


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Comments (65)

The only instance in my ... (Below threshold)
Lee:

The only instance in my life I can recall hearing "tar-baby" spoken in public as an insult was in the Saturday Night Live "Job Interview" skit featuring Richard Pryor and Chevy Chase...

You've only heard it once? That proves... what? It proves it is something that isn't said in public -- and for good reason. It is wholly inappropriate.

Should Snow be skewered over it? I don't think so. Should he apologize for the use - understanding that some Americans might have found it offensive? Absolutely.

I'm guessing y'all are Yank... (Below threshold)
meep:

I'm guessing y'all are Yankees, if "tar-baby" is considered offensive to you. Most Southerners, at least, know the story and know what a tar-baby is, and it has little to do with being black. It has everything to do with something that you get more and more stuck to as your futilely fight it because you take offense at... hmmm. So the term "tar-baby" might just be a tar-baby.

Next thing you know "Don't throw me in that briar patch!" will be off bounds.

Oh, PLEASE!!! Tony Snow h... (Below threshold)
goddessoftheclassroom:

Oh, PLEASE!!! Tony Snow has NO need to apologize. If he feels generous, he can educate the ignorant on the origin of the term. The idiom "hug the tar baby" has nothing to do with race. Yes, tar is black, but the figure of speech is not derogatory at all.

There is an another idiom that is clearly offensive: "a n-- in the woodpile." It refers in an unambiguously demeaning way to blacks, and is absolutely rude and unacceptable.

It drives me crazy when people look for things to offend them.

Might have expected this fr... (Below threshold)

Might have expected this from Lee. If the use of a perfectly apt idiom is misinterpreted by any uber-sensitive soul, the speaker must apologize. Because it's all about feelings.

Apologize for what, Lee?

Because an idiom goes out of use, that's because it's "wholly inappropriate??"

Jesus man, get a grip.

And that fella who used the word "niggardly?" Give 'im back pay and an apology.

I'm a 40 year old black man... (Below threshold)
Yeff:

I'm a 40 year old black man. I wouldn't bat an eye if I heard the term used like Tony Snow used it unless someone pointed it out.

If you're looking to be offended, eventually you will be.

Snow's apology should consi... (Below threshold)

Snow's apology should consist of the following statement:

"I sincerely apologize that here in America, we have people so hopelessly stupid that they construed that statement as a racist remark. I will work closely with this administration to ensure that future stupidity is curtailed as much as humanly possible."

Snow's apology should co... (Below threshold)
Lee:

Snow's apology should consist of the following statement: etc. etc.

Well, I suppose that would be better than no apology at all - but you know what? - I'll bet dollars-to-donuts that we see an apology within 72 hours.

The slate-grey and white co... (Below threshold)
Heralder:

The slate-grey and white color of this site offends me. Apologize.


People need to start realizing that often as not it's the offended persons fault that they're offended.

Geezus, help me, but Lee's ... (Below threshold)
Peter F.:

Geezus, help me, but Lee's right...on one count. No doubt the WH will issue some sort of apology. But I'll go Lee one further: You can fully expect the NAACP, the ACLU, Jesse Jackson, Rev. Al and the entire batshit crazy, race-agenda driven Left to make this into a case of "See! The Bush WH are racists!" And as usual they'll look like the opportunistic idiots they already are.

If I'm wrong, then I guess I really rednecked this entry. (Oh well, no worries about the aforementioned groups coming after me for using that phrase. Of that I'm certain.)

But his name is Snow...so t... (Below threshold)
jae:

But his name is Snow...so that means he used it to put AA's down...right?

Come on!

Peter F - I agree that the ... (Below threshold)
Lee:

Peter F - I agree that the left-wing wackos will be wacko over this. Still, Snow and the White House need to do the right thing despite the cackling from the far left.

If a pro football coach, or entertainer, or CEO used that term they would be held accountable - I can see the headliens now. So is anyone suggesting that the White House Press Secretary is above the same level of accountability?

Lee, Could you poi... (Below threshold)

Lee,

Could you point us to a handy list of terms we're not allowed to use and why?

Because it's hard to keep up, with the left redefining everything all the time.

"If a pro football coach, o... (Below threshold)

"If a pro football coach, or entertainer, or CEO used that term they would be held accountable"

I seriously doubt it, unless they were direting the comment at a black person and the context clearly demonstrated that they used the phrase OUTSIDE OF ITS IDOMATIC MEANING.

Lee.The right thin... (Below threshold)

Lee.

The right thing to do is insist that language not be bastardized by the perpetually offended stupids.

It is bad enough that constant misuse (see: decimation) eventually gets a notation, then a definition in a dictionary, but I am incensed that you can take a legitimate word, phrase or reference and turn it into something it most definitely is not.

He used a phrase "hug the tar-baby" that is a specific reference that your request for an apology may well epitomize. Are you going to apologize for being flat-out wrong?

OTOH, I wouldn't be surprised for the WH to wimp out, it does seem to be their default position. Harry Browne RIP.

Some of these people must b... (Below threshold)

Some of these people must be intellectual cripples, er... make that retarded, no er... mental midgets?

When do we get an aplogy fr... (Below threshold)
Retread:

When do we get an aplogy from the stupid for offending us with their stupidity?

(to lighten the mood)... (Below threshold)
goddessoftheclassroom:

(to lighten the mood)

Another bastardization the puts my teeth on edge is substituting the word "gender" for "sex" (as in male and female).

I teach 8th and 10th grade English, and I brought the house down when I told one 10th grade class (intentionally) that words have gender and people have sex...

Lee, you used the word "bet... (Below threshold)

Lee, you used the word "bet," obviously offensive to people who are recovering habitual gamblers; you used the word "donut" which has been linked countless times to ridiculing police officers, and you used the word "white" repeatedly, undoubtedly bringing up numerous painful memories to minorities who have been terrorized by the actions of white clad white supremacists.

I expect nothing less than heartfelt apologies from you for the use of such insensitive words!

I expect nothing less th... (Below threshold)
Lee:

I expect nothing less than heartfelt apologies from you for the use of such insensitive words!

Jamie - The next time I'm on national TV in front of a room full of reporters I will issue that apology - I promise!

From the White House.gov we... (Below threshold)
Lee:

From the White House.gov website comes this quote, listed on a page titled "Ask the White House, Spontaneous Answers to Non-Prescreened Questions". What is quoted below is a Q&A between Doug Eddy of Long Island New York and Dr. C. Rice.

Doug Rogers, from Long Eddy, NY writes:
When asked about criticism of his administration's civil rights record, President Bush pointed to having you and Colin Powell in his cabinet as proof of his commitment to equality for all races. How do you handle the pressure of being the embodiment of an entire race's aspirations for success?

Dr. Condoleezza Rice:
Well Doug, before I begin, let me just take a minute to thank you for raising this issue in the context of a thoughtful, albeit loaded question. You were the only liberal cretin who managed to inquire about this topic without referring to me as a "house negro" or "leggy Aunt Jemima tar baby pickaninny minstrel mammy."

As for your question, I don't really see myself as embodying anything. I'm just Condi: your everyday girl in a sensible pink skirt-suit who likes to play. Indeed, whether I'm playing the piano or a spirited real-world game of Risk, I'm just like any other member of the Bush team. And may I say how welcome this team has made me feel? Why, not only did I arrive on my first day to find my office thoughtfully decorated with a lovely framed gift, but I've been positively touched by the many other gestures intended to make me feel right at home - from the Friday fried chicken and watermelon buffet, all the way to the addition of my favorite song (Funkadelic's "Wars of Armageddon") to the break room karaoke machine.

In closing Doug, it's worth noting that President Bush's administration is far more racially diverse than the one that preceded it. Sure, it may be a thousand times more self-loathing as well, but that's beside the point.

It is clear from the context Rice placed the words "leggy Aunt Jemima tar baby pickaninny minstrel mammy" that she found the term to be derogatory or inflammatory. She used that term in the same vein as "house negro".

Now if Connie Rice finds it objectionable, don't you think an apology is due from Snow?

Ah - major correction to my... (Below threshold)
Lee:

Ah - major correction to my comment above - that was a quote from whitehouse.org website - not whitehouse.gov - and was merely satire - mea culpa. I was caught by a satirist...

Interesting, though, how yo... (Below threshold)
Lurking Observer:

Interesting, though, how you managed to claim it was from "whitehouse.gov" in your own comment, Lee.

And it took you a second look to decide that this was satire? The idea that a White House official would use the term "liberal cretin" didn't tip you off?

What "reality" are you based in??

Lee,I have trees i... (Below threshold)
robert:

Lee,

I have trees in my backyard that could tell that the Condi quote was not real.

Lee,If you spent hal... (Below threshold)
Eneils Bailey:

Lee,
If you spent half as much time on trying to be happy as you do on trying to find offense to your sensibilities, you would be a happier pup.

I watched the original pres... (Below threshold)
heptacableguy:

I watched the original press conference. When later I heard mention of the firestorm over Tony declining to "hug the tar baby", I assumed that it was because Helen Thomas was in the front row and Tony had gestured in her direction while speaking.

Just saying...

Ah, Lee:b... (Below threshold)
Proud Kaffir:

Ah, Lee:

but I've been positively touched by the many other gestures intended to make me feel right at home - from the Friday fried chicken and watermelon buffet, all the way to the addition of my favorite song (Funkadelic's "Wars of Armageddon") to the break room karaoke machine.

Do you not read what you copy and paste because it would have been obvious to anyone that this piece is satire?

Of course, I often make the mistake in reverse, especially when reading 9/11 conspiracy theories. I assume it is satire but am shocked to find out that it is actually written in seriousness.

I will not post I will not ... (Below threshold)

I will not post I will not post I will not post I will not post I will not post I will not post I will not post I will not post I will not post I will not post I will not post I will not post I will not post.


Shheeez, that wasn't so bad. I think I can get through this.

Sorry folks, I accidentally... (Below threshold)

Sorry folks, I accidentally clicked the post button.

I think you were looking fo... (Below threshold)
Lurking Observer:

I think you were looking for whitehouse.org, field-negro.

Where's the banjo solo? I m... (Below threshold)
astigafa:

Where's the banjo solo? I must have missed something. This is a story? Will I win something if I say, "That was a niggardly use of the phrase 'tar baby'?"

You're all on acid. Or I am. Either way, it's not a good fit.

If only I had disagreed wit... (Below threshold)
Lee:

If only I had disagreed with Paul in that comment, then it would have been deleted before anyone could have seen it. lol!

Lee, I do ... (Below threshold)
rusty_duck:


Lee,
I do belive you must be one of them LIBEEERRRALL
Crakers with kneepads and handful of chapstick!!
trying to make everyone feel warm and fuzzy...

The true error here is that... (Below threshold)

The true error here is that one may kick a tar baby, an' one may head butt a tar baby, but one does not hug a tar baby. For that Tony Snow needs to apologize.

http://www.uncleremus.com/tarbaby.html

Please Please Please Brer Fox, don throw me in the Briar Patch!

http://www.uncleremus.com/sharprabbit.html

Now ifn' y'all want to have something to be offended about, read this story below, the accompanying analysis and the comment that follows the analysis. If Tony White as Snow who supports Intelligent Design had made a reference to a certain pond [see below] then we'd have somthin to bicker about.

http://www.uncleremus.com/negro.html

"Should Snow be skewered ov... (Below threshold)
MikeSC:

"Should Snow be skewered over it? I don't think so. Should he apologize for the use - understanding that some Americans might have found it offensive? Absolutely."

He definitely should apologize.

Snow: I'm sorry that you in the WH press corps are barely literate troglodytes who confuse outrage for enlightenment. In the future, I will have all of my speeches proof-read by a 4 year old to make sure you don't get upset or confused. Thank you.

Who needs to be nice to these barely functional twits?

"Peter F - I agree that the left-wing wackos will be wacko over this. Still, Snow and the White House need to do the right thing despite the cackling from the far left."

Apologize because the left is poorly educated?

Shouldn't the NEA be doing that? Seems to be their fault more than anybody else's.
-=Mike

I have to disagree with the... (Below threshold)

I have to disagree with the Straight Dope quote... it's not a fine line at all. There's a huge gulf, a canyon, a great divide between being a jerk and examining every word you speak for nuances that may offend.

Welcome to the Wonderful Wo... (Below threshold)
docjim505:

Welcome to the Wonderful World of PC, in which ANY word or phrase that you use can be construed as offensive or even "hate speech" by anybody with a psychotic sense of victimhood (or a political axe to grind).

Definition taken directly f... (Below threshold)
Dave:

Definition taken directly from Wikipedia:

The tar baby was a trap -- a human figure made of tar -- used to capture Br'er Rabbit in a story which is part of American plantation folklore. Br'er Fox played on Br'er Rabbit's vanity and gullibility to goad him into attacking the fake and becoming stuck. A similar tale from African folklore in Ghana has the trickster Anansi in the role of Br'er Rabbit.

In Southern black speech in the 19th century, the word "baby" referred to both a baby and a child's "doll." Thus, the expression "tar baby" meant a tar doll or tar mannequin.

The story was originally published in Harper's Weekly by Robert Roosevelt of Sayville, New York.

Years later Joel Chandler Harris wrote of the tar baby in his Uncle Remus stories.

This story is credited with the invention of the word "segashuate."

----------------------------------------------

Sounds to me like a race card was trying to be thrown out just to get Snow in trouble. Or ANOTHER "tar-baby" put up so when Snow took the bait, it would stick to him and slow him down some more. the left are kookier than ever....

Always found it hilarious t... (Below threshold)
Faith+1:

Always found it hilarious to hear Lefties scream "right to free speech" and then clamp down with PC speech codes.

Political Correctness has done more to rob Americans of their civil liberties than ANY NSA program.

I wonder if Snow will bait ... (Below threshold)

I wonder if Snow will bait Andrew Sullivan next by saying something like, "Anyone who believes in Leopold's Rove Indictment probably believes in the Tooth Fairy."

Did the left get this worked up when Hillary made a joke about Gandhi running a gas station?

Well, that didn't take long... (Below threshold)
bobdog:

Well, that didn't take long, did it?

Oh, no, Brer Rabbit. All existing copies and every reference to the Uncle Remus stories should be gathered up and burned in the name of free speech. Plus everything that Samuel Clemens wrote, spoke or thought. It's for good of the Children, doncha know? We have to make America safe for Democracy.

And the earlier suggestion that we should hug Helen Thomas makes me think about projectile vomiting.

"tar baby" and other words ... (Below threshold)
MikeB:

"tar baby" and other words that have multiple, diverse meanings are what I'd call 'Rorschach' words...

- MikeB

Hello,For the sake o... (Below threshold)

Hello,
For the sake of accuracy, I should point out that the dictionary on "Tar Baby" that you reference in your post actually belongs to my former graduate student, Nancy Maurer, whose name is listed at the bottom of the entry. That particular site has one of those shared Front Page borders that just sticks my name and copyright on each page.

As for Snow's reference,I can think of more important issues to fight about. However, as someone who used to do PR and media training, I would have told him it was a stupid thing to say. In order for Snow's statement to be useful, he has to be reasonably sure of what it was likely to communicate. The positive communicative value of that phrase in 2006 is debatable.

Finally, I would remind those who think that people who object to the term are being oversensitive that idioms are dropped from the language all the time.

Regarding David Howard's us... (Below threshold)
Throbert McGee:

Regarding David Howard's use of "niggardly" --

When I was a 7th-grade geek, my co-nerd Kevin and I would entertain ourselves by devising and then loudly reading such sentences as:

"The Rev. Falwell masticated with growing vigor while he watched the thespians shamelessly formicating all over Hollywood." (Which of course means, "He chewed his food while the actors scurried about like ants.")

The hope, of course, was that an ignorant classmate -- or better yet, a teacher -- would react with "Eww, that's dirty," whereupon we would utterly devastate them by pulling out the dictionary and proving that the words in question had perfectly innocent meanings.

Anyway, I always wondered whether Howard had used the word "niggardly" on purpose, to trick a colleague into revealing his ignorance of the word's origins.

For Dave above, who quoted ... (Below threshold)

For Dave above, who quoted Wikipedia about "Tar Baby"... he conveniently left out the last half of that Wiki entry, which states:

The term also has a negative connotation. Again, according to [1]:

"The expression tar baby is also used occasionally as a derogatory term for black people (in the U.S. it refers to African-Americans; in New Zealand it refers to Maoris), or among blacks as a term for a particularly dark-skinned person."
The dual connotations associated with the term have resulted in many issues for public figures that attempt to make use of the term to refer to a sticky situation."


No matter what the original connotation, the newer, more offensive connotation clearly makes it inappropriate.

Tony Snow is a veteran jour... (Below threshold)

Tony Snow is a veteran journalist, was speechwriting director for the first President Bush and now is serving as Press Secretary for the second Bush. He's a smart man who was hired for his mastery of the English language, among other things.

His use of "tar baby" was ill-advised, at the very least -- no matter how correctly he used the phrase.

Btw, Kevin, Nobel Prizes are not awarded for a particular book, but rather a body of work, i.e. Toni Morrison's "Tar Baby" is not a "Nobel prize winning novel." In fact, the Swedish Academy made no mention of that particular book when they awarded her the Nobel in 1993.

She's got a Nobel Prize for... (Below threshold)

She's got a Nobel Prize for Literature, and it's prominently mentioned on the cover of Tar Baby. Your assesment may be correct, but the publishers clearly want to associate the two - even if the committee does not.

I'm gonna decimate every si... (Below threshold)

I'm gonna decimate every single person who renegs on their obligations, or is niggardly in their attack on the tar-baby.

Tar BABY IS A RACIAL EPITHE... (Below threshold)

Tar BABY IS A RACIAL EPITHET ,DO your home work before posting
tar baby-
the doll smeared with tar, set to catch Brer Rabbit (1881); hence transf., spec. an object of censure; a sticky problem, or one which is only aggravated by attempts to solve it(colloq.);
a derog. term for a Black (U.S.) or a Maori (N.Z.).
something from which it is nearly impossible to extricate oneself.
n. a "sticky problem" (20th century use).
A Black person (used in the U.S., 1940s).
A derogatory term for a Maori (used in N.Z., 1950s).
A Negro baby. Cf. Tar pot (sense 1) (U.S. colloquial, mid 1800s-present).

Tar baby was used as a raci... (Below threshold)
The Jesus:

Tar baby was used as a racist term long before it was used otherwise, stop trying to defend the racist press secretary.

uh huh so why is it then th... (Below threshold)
stupid fukin southern fuckers:

uh huh so why is it then that whenever shit like this happens its always white people who are the first to shout that its not racist. how do u know how he intended the phrase to be used an furthermore the phrase itself can be used as a racial slur, ive heard that term used many times by SOUTHERN people to describe black people. its offensive not only to black people who know what it means but to me as a white person who cannot think why a person in public office would chhose to use a term that could be construed as a racial slur, even if he didnt mean it as one he should be fired for bein a stupid dumb fuck. nigglet

"Tar BABY IS A RACIAL EPITH... (Below threshold)
MikeSC:

"Tar BABY IS A RACIAL EPITHET ,DO your home work before postin"

Seeing as how the context in which it was said makes approximately zero sense as a racial slur, methinks you are just bitching for the sake of bitching. One must be intellectually dishonest or profoundly idiotic to say "He was calling black people names!".

"Tar baby was used as a racist term long before it was used otherwise, stop trying to defend the racist press secretary."

Actually, it was used in the stories first. Bigots are not well known for their creativity and writers seldom name characters after popular racial epithets in the REAL world.

"uh huh so why is it then that whenever shit like this happens its always white people who are the first to shout that its not racist."

By the same token, why do blacks assume it IS racist? Is reading his quote too much to ask?

"how do u know how he intended the phrase to be used an furthermore the phrase itself can be used as a racial slur"

I can read his statement and have a rudimentary knowledge of grammar.

"ive heard that term used many times by SOUTHERN people to describe black people."

I've heard whites called "Crackers". Does that mean that any time I ask for crackers with my soup, I am, in fact, denigrating myself?

". its offensive not only to black people who know what it means but to me as a white person who cannot think why a person in public office would chhose to use a term that could be construed as a racial slur, even if he didnt mean it as one he should be fired for bein a stupid dumb fuck. nigglet"

He should be fired because his critics are poorly educated?

Again, shouldn't the NEA be blamed for that?
-=Mike

well 1st of all i know that... (Below threshold)
stupid fuckers:

well 1st of all i know that anyone can read the quote and see that he probably didnt mean it in an offensive way, that being said, the rest of ur argument is so paper thin is funny. balck people sometimes assume things are meant in a racial way because duh, for the last 400 years they have been that way. you expect everything to be all forgive and forget but it was just 40 years ago that the major civil rights laws were passed, i mean come on if uve been a second class citizen for 400 years and then finally you get some amount of freedom, to what extent is still under debate, and your supposed to just forget it ever happened. maybe in some fantasy world but not in the real one, so yeah when a black person says that race was a factor or that they were insulted by someone because of their race then i think they probably have a pretty good basis for comeing up with that theory. second he should be fired because as a representative of the administration that runs this government, a government that black people have a very good reason to distrust, he should be responsible for offending sections of the populations by using a phrase that can be construed as a racial slur

SF - Let me guess - - your... (Below threshold)

SF - Let me guess - - your nickname is a self description, right?
I just spent five minutes trying to decipher your piss-poor attempt at a comment and found it to be nothing but circular idiocy.

"to what extent is still under debate"
Could you please tell me what rights I have that those of African descent do not?

I won't even respond to the rest, except to say that you obviously don't want to explain a point ov view as much as you want to hurl invective and demonstrate your ignorance.

I do have one small word of advise. It helps an argument immensely if people can actually read it. Try capitolizing the start of your sentences and ending them with a period. And for heaven's sake could you separate your paragraphs?

well 1st of all i know t... (Below threshold)
MikeSC:

well 1st of all i know that anyone can read the quote and see that he probably didnt mean it in an offensive way, that being said, the rest of ur argument is so paper thin is funny. balck people sometimes assume things are meant in a racial way because duh, for the last 400 years they have been that way.

So, reality is immaterial? Got it. Are you saying blacks are incapable of grasping the concept of context?

you expect everything to be all forgive and forget but it was just 40 years ago that the major civil rights laws were passed, i mean come on if uve been a second class citizen for 400 years and then finally you get some amount of freedom, to what extent is still under debate, and your supposed to just forget it ever happened.

There is no debate as to "how much of a citizen" they are unless you're oblivious to reality. And it's absurd to say "Well, things were bad 40 years ago --- I'll never trust anybody" --- especially since a lot of the bitching is done by people not alive during that time frame.

maybe in some fantasy world but not in the real one, so yeah when a black person says that race was a factor or that they were insulted by someone because of their race then i think they probably have a pretty good basis for comeing up with that theory.

No, they clearly do not. It means that somebody told them it was racist and that they didn't actually see the quote.

second he should be fired because as a representative of the administration that runs this government, a government that black people have a very good reason to distrust, he should be responsible for offending sections of the populations by using a phrase that can be construed as a racial slur

Again, you blame him because people aren't educated.

It's hardly Snow's fault.

Shame on Snow for assuming blacks are educated, huh?
-=Mike

I will not post I will not ... (Below threshold)

I will not post I will not post I will not post I will not post I will not post I will not post I will not post I will not post......

One two three four five six seven eight nine ten.... OK that wasn't so bad.

Regardless of the reality o... (Below threshold)
Killian:

Regardless of the reality of what "tar baby" actually means, the fact remains that it is a word which a good portion of the United States considers quite offensive, a word which one should avoid saying in private, let alone on national television in a White House press briefing. It was idiotic of Tony Snow to use that word, regardless of whether he actually meant anything by it, and he should apologize for not having the common sense to not use it.

The Bre'er Rabbit tales themselves are also considered to be offensive by many Americans, as some people see them as allegorical stories about racial tension in the United States, and as throwbacks to ugly periods in America's history. Anyone planning on working in front of the television cameras in such a public forum should be wholly aware of such facts.

This ought to help settle t... (Below threshold)
h0mi:

This ought to help settle the issue but it won't.


http://www.randomhouse.com/wotd/index.pperl?date=19990212

he should apologize, not fo... (Below threshold)
eddie:

he should apologize, not for saying it, but for any misunderstanding he caused. i'm 22 and have only known that term as a racial slur, so at first i was taken by suprise, but i could tell by the context, as well as the very calm and non-chalant way he used the term. i think this may be a generational thing. i'm too young to know that term as anything other than a racial slur, so i'm not really that mad. once i got over my shock, i found it humurous that there could be such a wide difference in the meaning that i had for that term and for what it meant for tony. i'm not a snow fan, but he didn't make a mistake. like i said, if he's going to apologize (he should, if just to educate people on the original meaning of the term), he should not apologize for the remark, but for the misunderstanding that resulted from it.

If it walks like a duck....... (Below threshold)
MIke1:

If it walks like a duck....

Hey, I have decided I'm off... (Below threshold)
Phantomflash:

Hey, I have decided I'm offended by the term "redneck." So nobody better ever say it in public, in any context. Is that clear?

It would never have occured... (Below threshold)
Anonymous:

It would never have occured to me to interpret that statment as racist. I was brought up with the folk tales and I remember the story about the tar baby. It has no refrence to race, but to the stickyness of tar. Tony Snow did nothing wrong.

I still hate George Bush and everything he stands for, but the statement was totally P.C.

If Snow made a similar comm... (Below threshold)
Jznryn:

If Snow made a similar comment with use of offensive language or jesture to any other culture he would apologize. It seems to me, that the world believes that African Americans should act like so called "White Americans". African Americans have their own culture and lives that are repeatedly disrespected. Simply pointing out, to a representative of (all) people, that some people find it offensive is not wrong. The words are offensive no matter the way they are used. You wouldn't walk around the house of a Japanese family with your shoes on because that is disrespectful. You don't touch a Muslim woman that's not your family because that is disrespectful. You don't kiss strangers cause that is disrespectful. Bottom line, regardless of the meaning of your action it can be disrespectful and until you know that it is, it is the responsiblity of the person or persons offended to point it out to you. As if there is no other way, in the english language, to say "I don't want to hug the tar baby". He should apologize and move on.

One more thing I'm from the South and I have never heard the term Tar-baby used in the context Snow used it. It has always been used by racist people as derogatory term in my life. AND I understand what he was trying to say was not meant to be offensive unless you are *hint* baby made of tar.
Dang, that was so easy to change. I wonder how hard it would be for a person who's important job for the White House job is to speak to the public to learn.

> If Snow made a similar co... (Below threshold)
Phantomflash:

> If Snow made a similar comment with
> use of offensive language or jesture
> to any other culture he would apologize.

I don't think so. The world is simply chock FULL of people who will take things wrong, and it's simply not possible to apologize to all of them.

> The words are offensive no matter the way
> they are used.

Absolutely NOT! The English language is FULL of words that have completely unrelated meanings depending on the context. (Ditto for many other languages.)

> You wouldn't walk around the house of a
> Japanese family with your shoes (etc.)

He wasn't in a Japanese house, or touching a Muslim, etc. Those are overt acts. He was speaking English, and using perfectly correct meanings and intentions.

In Texas (and that overlaps the South), I have NEVER heard that term used in a derogatory manner.

I refuse to let some racist jerk(s) try to hijack the meaning of what I say in perfectly good English, unless the usage becomes so prevalent and universal that it overwhelms the "normal" definition. And "tar baby" is nowhere near that threshold. Any attempted rearrangement or rewording of the phrase is inferior (lacking impact) and inefficient, partly because the audience is left groping to piece the unfamiliar phrase back together in their heads to come up with the "correct" wording -- violating a cardinal principal of communication.

> If Snow made a similar co... (Below threshold)
jznryn:

> If Snow made a similar comment with
> use of offensive language or jesture
> to any other culture he would apologize.

I don't think so. The world is simply chock FULL of people who will take things wrong, and it's simply not possible to apologize to all of them.

But as representative of UNITED STATES you shouldn't disregard a significant part of your population THAT YOU REPRESENT. And sure you can't apologize to everybody. That's why most people try to avoid saying things that might be taking offensive. And like I said before "it is the responsiblity of the person or persons offended to point it out to you." How are we going to learn to respect each other if you can't simply understand that I find some things offenseive and avoid it. Unless I missed it nobody has used "holding the Tar-baby" to descibe this thread or the fact that people get upset over things like this all the time. Because you found other ways to describe the situation.

> The words are offensive no matter the way
> they are used.

Absolutely NOT! The English language is FULL of words that have completely unrelated meanings depending on the context. (Ditto for many other languages.)

And as a nation we have grown and learned from each other's boundaries of respect through dialog(meaning someone tells the other "that hurts my feeling could you try not to say or do that"). "The English language is FULL of words that have completely unrelated meanings depending on the context" And alot of those words we don't use in front of certain people to avoid conflict. See, we can adapt and find new ways of saying things we have the brain power even with the "no child left behind" policy

> You wouldn't walk around the house of a
> Japanese family with your shoes (etc.)

He wasn't in a Japanese house, or touching a Muslim, etc. Those are overt acts. He was speaking English, and using perfectly correct meanings and intentions.

Look up the ENGLISH definition of the N-word and Bi**h. What kind of people and how many do you see "using perfectly correct meanings and intentions" of those words. (Not alot important people in the presence of the public). In fact here's a whole list of words that we try to avoid saying and some we still use: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethnic_slurs. I do admit there are some words that I use, not as ethnic slur, because the original intent of the word. But as person who can find other words to use, with the same intent, I wouldn't mind avoiding the use of word in the presence of those people offended by it. Just like some people avoid the N-word in front of Black people. But use it with their friends.

In Texas (and that overlaps the South), I have NEVER heard that term used in a derogatory manner.

I refuse to let some racist jerk(s) try to hijack the meaning of what I say in perfectly good English, unless the usage becomes so prevalent and universal that it overwhelms the "normal" definition. And "tar baby" is nowhere near that threshold. Any attempted rearrangement or rewording of the phrase is inferior (lacking impact) and inefficient, partly because the audience is left groping to piece the unfamiliar phrase back together in their heads to come up with the "correct" wording -- violating a cardinal principal of communication.

Just like some people who got upset with people who took the "unfamiliar phrase" of Snow the wrong way and calling them stupid and ignorant, can't the same thing be said about those who take the reworded(is that a real word. lol) phrase wrong. And I understand the use of the phrase is not intended to be derogatory, but I can tell that you have the ability to "turn a phrase" from a phrase. And if Tar-baby wasn't near the threshold, don't you think it wouldn't have been a issue like it was.

I just ran across this stor... (Below threshold)
maxskyfan:

I just ran across this story and all I can really say is this just too silly.

And LOL "reworded" is strangely enough a word. When did it become possible to use the right word or phrase and a crazy mob is screaming for your head. Aesop was a slave too, anyone mind a literary reference from one of his stories.

Hey, we are not talking about a person. It is a lump of tar on a log. The story consists of a rabbit, a fox and a bear. There are no people, be them black or white.


In 1987, "Tar Baby" by Toni Morrison was a best seller

From NY TIMES:

What Really Scares Microsoft

By VIRGINIA POSTREL
Published: November 8, 1999

At technology conferences, Microsoft is the devil, or the guaranteed laugh line. Its products are mocked, its business practices booed.
''The quality of their software is terrible in itself, and it's contagiously terrible,'' says a former Microsoft programmer, now with a Bay Area Internet startup. ''It becomes the tar baby of bad code. It's really demoralizing to work with it.''


By ROY REED
Published: January 20, 1986

IN MEMORY OF DR. KING; IF HE WERE ALIVE

What could the world's best Baptist preacher do about the drug addiction that runs like a serpent through the urban black community? Or an illegitimacy rate of 50 percent among black teen-age mothers? Or those black housing projects where only one in 10 families is led by both parents? What could even ''de Lawd,'' as the young and envious black militants used to call him, do about the continuing slippage of blacks in the struggle for economic equality?

In 1966, toward the end of his career, Dr. King went to Chicago looking for a Yankee ''Bull'' Connor. What he found was more like Bre'r Rabbit's tar baby.

(ROY REED COVERED CIVIL RIGHTS FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES IN THE 1960'S AND 1970's. HE NOW TEACHES JOURNALISM AT THE UNIVERSITY OF ARKANSAS, IN FAYETTEVILLE.)


By JONATHAN FUERBRINGER
Published: June 27, 1985

POLITICAL BUDGET

But the Democrats in the House are not likely to back down on Social Security because it is the best weapon they have. ''Social Security is the issue'' of the 1986 campaign, said Representative Tony Coelho of California, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. ''It's an issue because it's like a tar baby'' that Republicans get stuck to, he said. ''We have to be the protector of it and we are.''

***OH NO - DEMOCRATIC use "TAR BABY"!

Personally I think this entire issue is a tar baby. There are people out to get you and you will be got one way or the other. If it wasn't "tar baby" it would have been something else, just as long as there is some record of wrong doing that will be one more log on the fire. It is like the Fox in the story; he is always after you, followed by the dimwitted Bear. The Fox sets the plan and the Mob mentality Bear is right behind him.

The question I have for everyone is: Do the newspapers know how many times they have printed "TAR BABY" without anyone lifting a finger or saying, "Boo"? Because the number is more than 3.




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