American English is full of confusing idiomatic expressions. For instance, someone who doesn't speak it as their first language would be very confused by the phrase "putting your foot in your mouth." How does someone put their foot in their mouth? Obviously they don't, but maybe sometimes they should…
Rep. Michele Bachmann accused President Barack Obama of "waving a tar baby in the air" by blaming oil speculators for the "poor choices" he's made for energy policy.
"This is just about waving a tar baby in the air and saying that something else is a problem. I have never seen a more irresponsible president who is infantile in the way that he continually blames everybody else for his failure to first diagnose the problem, and second, to address the problem. It's always everyone else’s fault," the Minnesota Republican told Florida-based conservative blog The Shark Tank in an interview on Wednesday.
The term "tar baby" comes from a 19th-century book about a freed slave named Uncle Remus, later made popular by Disney's undeniably racist Song of the South. One of Uncle Remus' stories is about how Br'er Fox catches Br'er Rabbit by getting him to touch a doll made out of tar that only gets harder to let go of the more the rabbit tries to struggle free, much like Rick Santorum trying to get away from his Google definition.
Ironically, saying "tar baby" nowadays is itself a tar baby. Mitt Romney, John McCain and Rep. Doug Lamborn have all struggled with the repercussions of touching the sticky bait of racist language. Each apologized for it, but the question remains: Is it really racist?
The best way to tell is to Google all the instances where it was said about George W. Bush and our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. I bet there are so many instances, since getting us into those wars is the literal meaning of that term, right? There are probably soooo many, ah nope, they're all about President Obama, too.
The answer is, saying "tar baby" isn't any more racist than saying that certain white politicians have "cracker mouth" because they can't seem to say the right words. You know… like after you eat too many crackers and you have all those crumbs in your mouth. What did you think I meant?
Photo by Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images
Tags: Barack Obama, Michele Bachmann, Racism