Thursday, September 04, 2008

How Far We Haven't Come

racist congressman calls Obamas  uppity

Racism and Sexism: Partners in Bigotry.

Barack and Michelle Obama are ‘uppity,’ says U.S. Congressman

Thursday, September 4, 2008, 03:50 PM
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

U.S. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, who was born and raised in the South, said Thursday that he’s never heard the word “uppity” used in a racially loaded fashion — and meant nothing more than “elitist” when he applied it to Barack Obama and his wife Michelle.


Just like the denials of continuing, perpetual sexist knuckle-draggers on both the left and the right.]

“If anyone read more into it, no undercurrent was intended,” Westmoreland spokesman Brian Robinson said this evening.

In a Washington D.C. conversation with reporters, the two-term Sharpsburg congressman was discussing the speech of Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin when he was asked to compare her with Michelle Obama.

“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,” Westmoreland said, according to The Hill, a newspaper that covers Capitol Hill.

When asked to clarify, Westmoreland said, “Uppity, yeah.”

The Hill immediately posted the incident on-line, where it zipped around the Internet, causing Westmoreland’s office phones to ring off the hook.

The incident underlines the cultural minefields that come with a presidential campaign that features the first African-American to win the nomination of a major political party. Republicans say they’re merely trying to portray Obama as out of touch with working Americans, but some Democrats say the GOP is speaking in cultural code.

For decades in the segregated South, “uppity” was a word applied to African-Americans who attempted to rise above servile positions.

“It was only a matter of time before Republican officials shifted from oblique racially-charged language to brazen racially-charged language,” wrote Steve Benen, author of a blog for Washington Monthly magazine.

Though raised by a struggling, single mother, Obama studied at both Columbia University in New York and Harvard University. Michelle Obama was raised on Chicago’s rough south side, the daughter of a city pump operator — but she attended both Princeton and Harvard universities.

This spring, Obama apologized for his “poor word choices” at a California fund-raiser in which he described small-town Americans as “bitter” over the souring economy and clinging to religion and guns in response.

Citing that gaffe, Hillary Clinton sought to apply the “elitist” label to Obama in the Democratic primary. Republicans have tried to do so during their national convention in Minnesota.

“In small towns, we don’t quite know what to make of a candidate who lavishes praise on working people when they are listening, and then talks about how bitterly they cling to their religion and guns when those people aren’t listening,” Gov. Sarah Palin, the GOP nominee for vice president, said Wednesday in her debut speech.

A spokeswoman for the Obama campaign in Georgia declined comment.

In the article published by The Hill, the national Obama campaign did not note any racial context in the Georgia congressman’s remarks. “Sounds like Rep. Westmoreland should be careful throwing stones from his candidate’s eight glass houses,” said Obama spokesman Tommy Vietor.

Robinson, Westmoreland’s spokesman, said the Obama response proved that no offense was intended. “They saw it as the way he meant it,” Robinson said.

Westmoreland, who is contemplating a 2010 run for governor, released the following statement:

“I’ve never heard that term used in a racially derogatory sense. It is important to note that the dictionary definition of ‘uppity’ is ‘affecting an air of inflated self-esteem — snobbish.’

“That’s what we meant by uppity when we used it in the mill village where I grew up,” Westmoreland said.

Considered one of the most conservative members of Congress, Westmoreland represents the 3rd District, which covers much of central and western Georgia, from Henry County to Muscogee County. He was first elected to Congress in 2004, after beating Republican primary rival Dylan Glenn, an African-American.

Glenn was supported by several high-ranking Republicans, including former U.S. House speaker Newt Gingrich, who argued that the state GOP needed more diversity. That prompted DeKalb County CEO Vernon Jones, a Democrat who is also African-American, to jump into the campaign on Westmoreland’s behalf.

Both Jones and Westmoreland were first elected to the state House in 1992. Westmoreland later became the House minority leader.

The dinosaurs are dying off. That's an extinction I look forward to.


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