Updated: Race: Westmoreland Calls Obama "Uppity"

Expecting this years presidential election campaign to be free of racial stereotypes would be like believing that we can solve the conflict between Israel and Palestine by meeting up for a week-long peace summit.

Just a few days ago, Congressman Westmoreland (R-GA) referred to the Obamas using the term “uppity.”  He said: 

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

The term is racially charged. In its article GOP Rep.: Obamas part of ‘uppity’ class,” the USA Today wrote: 

Vanessa Beasley, who teaches political rhetoric at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, said “uppity” is a word that hits the ear of African-Americans in a negative way — evoking images of the pre-civil rights era, when powerful whites sometimes punished blacks who spoke up for themselves.

“It has very clear roots in the history of slavery in the South,” Beasley said. “The term ‘uppity’ has such a specific, contextual historic meaning. It is more evocative of a particular moment in history and particular set of fears that exist today within certain parts of the electorate.

“The racial politics that it reanimates are very worrisome.”

The Obama campaign did not call the statement racist. If they would, everybody would accuse them of playing the race card. And it certainly does not make sense for them to put the issue of “race” at the front and center of this campaign.

The instance is surely worrisome. What is also distressing is the fact that a person like Westmoreland can actually be elected to the House of Representatives. Stephen Colbert interviewed Congressman Westmoreland for the segment “Better Know a District” of his show “The Colbert Report.” The interview reveals Westmoreland’s apparent lack of intelligence.

I suppose H. L. Mencken was thinking of politicians like Westmoreland when he pointed out: 

“Never underestimate the stupidity of the American people.”

Update: I met up with an African-American friend of mine yesterday. We discussed the “uppity” comment and he aparently did not think that it is an issue. He even asked the two guys, who worked at the coffee shop where we discussed the matter (both African-Americans as well), about it to illustrate that it is a non-issue. They agreed with him. Older people, however, disagreed. Consequently, there might be a generational gap when it comes to evaluating the comment. A fact that in itself is facinating. The mainstream news media (e.g. CNN) picked up the issue yesterday as well.    



Interesting observation about “uppity” being a generational thing. In any case, I suppose, the term is not so much about insulting African-Americans as it is about bonding among racists. Put differently, Westmoreland might have been less interested in alienating African Americans and more in signaling to (other) racists that it was okay to feel (and talk) racist about the Democratic candidate.