Bachmann: Obama’s “Waving A Tar Baby Around”

Filed in National by on April 19, 2012

Representative Bachmann speaking about President Obama and the price of gasoline said that Obama is “waving a tar baby around”. In itself, the dictionary meaning of tar baby is not a racist slur, which is what the right wing will say. But as John McWhorter writes:

Part of the human propensity for metaphor is that we make semantic associations, which drift and reassign over time. As such, it’s not the most graceful thing to refer to a black figure as a tar baby, and it was quite gracious for Lamborn to apologize. However, to assume Lamborn knew the word was a slur and was passing a grimy little signal to his base is unwarranted here. It is the kind of reflexive and recreational abuse we revile when it comes from the other direction (i.e. Obama as a “racist”).

Tar baby is one of those intermediate cases: The basic meaning is the folkloric one, while a derived meaning, known only to a segment of American English speakers (and to many among them, only vaguely) is a dismissive reference to black people.

There will be gaffes with expressions like these, upon which, in a sociologically enlightened society, apologies will be necessary. However, to insist upon the moral backwardness of the apologist is logically incoherent in reference to this particular term, and as such, less sociologically enlightened than it may seem.


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Comments (9)

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  1. jason330 says:

    You have to consider the possibility that Bachmann is just really stupid.

  2. Liberal Elite says:

    She’s running for VP. She thinks she’s doing well.

  3. Rustydils says:

    Thank you for posting this video. Please keep posting these videos, Michelle Bachman laid out very well a number of things the President could be doing differently to lower gas prices. From all of us staunch Romney supporters, please keep providing us these good videos’ had not seen this one. I appreciate you guys helping us get Mitt Romney elected.

    P.S. I especially like the picture you use sometimes of Romney and his associates showing off a bunch of money they raised when they started Bain Capital. I think they raised $37 million at that time. That is very inspiring to most of us who believe in the free enterprise system. Thanks

  4. SussexAnon says:

    More baffling Bachman BS.

    Saving the domestic auto industry was hardly a childish endeavor.

    Might want to avoid the phrase “in spades” too.

  5. Liberal Elite says:

    “From all of us staunch Romney supporters”

    There’s a belly laugh right there.

  6. MJ says:

    I think that when Rusty was born, the doctor slapped his head instead of his tushie.

  7. nemski says:

    @ LE thanks for posting that as Rustydils lost me at “Michelle Bachman laid out very well a number of things. . .”

  8. Liberal Elite says:

    Well. No one likes Mitt Romney, but there are a few who like Obama even less. But that does NOT make them staunch supporters. There’s really nothing to support… just pillars of salt.

  9. Exhausted says:

    Note the disrespectful language she uses in general, notwithstanding the questionable literary reference. Civic discourse should not include namecalling.