Don't Call Me Slavish, Whitey

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One of the year's biggest electoral busts has been the GOP's effort to elect some of their black stalwarts to major statewide offices. (A little more here.) At the start of the year the party had four such candidates running in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Maryland—now the Michigan one's already gone, and the Ohio and PA ones are heading to landslide defeats. Maryland's Michael Steele is the only candidate that Republicans think could still win. That's in part because the Maryland party has co-opted the P.C. outrage of liberals.

Earlier in the week, Democrat Steny Hoyer (the party's House whip) told an audience of black businessmen that Steele had a career of "slavishly supporting the Republican Party." No one in the audience took offense; the word "slavish" isn't related to American slavery, after all. But Republicans did their best imitation of D.C.'s mayor Anthony Williams, who fired an aide for using the word "niggardly," and started howling for Hoyer's apology—then for his resignation.

I call on Steny Hoyer to resign his post as House Minority Whip due to his reprehensible comments and I call on Ben Cardin repudiate the comments. Additionally, Congressmen Elijah Cummings and Albert Wynn should end their silence on the racial attacks on Michael Steele and denounce the bigoted statements by their colleague.

All this for using a word that wasn't even offending blacks in Maryland, if The Washington Times's follow-up is any indication. So if the GOP's black outreach works, we'll have two parties that pound the table and scream about political correctness. Hooray!

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  1. Rex Kramer: Danger Seeker!

  2. Don’t forget Tony Snow’s “tar baby” comment for another pseudo-racist blow-up.

    BTW, serious question – is “tar baby” a legitimately bad / racist phrase to use? I mean in the sense of “When Bush decided to invade Iraq, he really grabbed the tar baby.”

  3. You might be interested to know what happened in 2002 between these two.

    U.S. Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-Dist. 5) of Mechanicsville, in an interview Wednesday, offered some of the most pointed Democratic criticism yet of the Ehrlich-Steele ticket. Hoyer described Steele as a “token candidate” and likened him to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. “The problem with token candidates like Mr. Steele is that the voters see them for what they are,” Hoyer said. “Steele will have no more of an impact in the African-American community than former President Bush got when he appointed Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court. People can see through the motivation.”

    It’s not quite as though Hoyer doesn’t have a history of this type of racial innuendo.

  4. I like the picture reference. Was that Kentucky Fried Movie, or the other one? I am suprised no one has come up with this idea in a reality TV show.

    By the way, more on the silly maryland PC kerfuffle here

  5. jf – Uh, token isn’t “racial innuendo.” Hoyer wasn’t disguising his opinion, which was that Steele was a lightweight who was only chosen because of his race. Which anyone in Maryland would agree with (except for the “lightweight” part). There’s a difference between racism and attacking someone who happens to be black, or pointing out that their race is part of their appeal.

  6. Conservatives can’t play a credible race card to save their lives.

    Tokenism isn’t enough. Ginned-up outrage isn’t enough. If you don’t put in the work of organizing the voter registration drives, of actually listening to what people from black communities care about instead of telling them, of voting in ways that address their concerns even when they’re not your own ideological hobby horses, and of making the interests of black communities and citizens a priority, you can’t just parachute in a black candidate come election time.

    In a lot of ways, the “niggardly” event and this wanna-be scandal are similar, but the GOPers seem to have lost site of one important distinction; in Washington DC, black residents were actually offended by the remark. Williams wasn’t telling them they should be offended; As part of his established, producting, ongoing relationship with his city’s black community, he was listening to them tell him they were offended.

    In Maryland, the GOP and the Steele campaign are trying to gin up synthetic outrage, and sell it to the public. That’s a tough trick even for someone who is recognized and trusted as an ally. It’s certainly not going to work for the Republicans.

    But ultimately, this isn’t about appealing to black voters, any more than putting Republican sewer commissioners and country board members on the stage behind George Bush at the convention. It’s the bank-shot pander, an attempt to convince white people who are concerned about the Republicans’ very recent, very pronounced history of pandering to white racism that it’s not like that anymore, and that it’s ok to vote Republican.

    But looking at the black vote totals in 2000 and 2004, you can see how well trying that once every four years pans out.

  7. “It’s not quite as though Hoyer doesn’t have a history of this type of racial innuendo.”

    Ah, the “you’re a racist for noticing my racism” gambit.

    Apparently, saying you shouldn’t put someone in a powerful position merely because of their race is now a racist statement.

    I did not know that.

  8. Holy shit. Let’s see. Two people somehow read the word “racist” into what I wrote. Considering I went out of my way to not say that Hoyer is a racist (because as far as I can tell he isn’t), I’m not sure how you two found that in my comments.

    Also, Mr. Weigel, you claim that the Republicans “chose” Mr. Steele because of his race. Perhaps you could direct me to the literature that the Maryland GOP sent out instructing the primary voters that they needed to vote solely on the basis of race instead of qualification and experience.

  9. Wait, Mr. Weigel. If you were responding to Steele’s selection as Lieuetenant Governor, I retract what I said and apologize for mistaking what you were referring to.

  10. “It’s not quite as though Hoyer doesn’t have a history of this type of racial innuendo.”

    “Holy shit. Let’s see. Two people somehow read the word “racist” into what I wrote.”

    You went so far out of your way to avoid calling him a racist that, in a story about him saying something that is allegedly racist, you accused him of having a history of racial innuendo.

    Gee, I hope you packed a lunch.

  11. You can’t actually expect the GOP not to use the same knife that the Dems have cut them with repeatedly when they get the chance, can you?

    And if Joe’s indignant responses are any indication, the wound was not insignificant…

  12. Jf – I’m referring to his selection as lieutenant governor. The Maryland GOP didn’t have the deepest bench, but Steele had literally no experience in elective office and only modest experience in business. He was the state GOP chairman. It was an open secret that he was chosen to compete for black votes against Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, who had ample black candidates to choose from and instead selected a white former Republican as her running mate. (This year’s Democratic candidate, Martin O’Malley, has selected a black state rep named Anthony Brown.)

  13. If a system has developed that creates incentives to “pound the table and scream about political correctness” then we have to expect that both parties will do that, in the same way we have a system that rewards expanding government benefits and increasing the federal budget, and so we have two parties that do that. If the Democrats suffer from GOP use of the race card, it will be sad, but there will be some element of poetic justice to it.

    I know several grad students who are always decrying how everybody is a racist or a homophobe or whatever. It is always amusing to me when some slacker in one of the classes they teach, in response to a poor grade, alleges that these lefties gave them a bad grade because they are black, gay, Jewish, etc. They are suffering from an atmosphere that they themselves have helped to create, an atmosphere in which the accuser and not the accused are given the benefit of the doubt.

  14. Its a shame the GOP continues to live decades in the past, all I can do is shake my head at this news. I wish it was a suprise.

  15. de stijl,

    “Tar baby” isn’t a racist term per se, but it’s the sort of term you should avoid if the subject matter is at all relevant to race. Like, if you were the mayor, and you were giving a speech to the Puerto Rican Community Action Committee, congratulating them on their anti-litter campaign, you probably wouldn’t want to say that the neighborhood lookes “spic and span.” It’s just poor word choice.

    Ultimately, anything that remotely sounds like it could be a racial term can be turned into a slur. I used to play cards during break when I worked in a warehouse, and the running joke when someone dithered on what to bid was, “Are you renegging? Are you a renegger”

    “Hell, no, I ain’t no renegger!”

  16. Steele’s down like 10 points. Ehrlich’s reduced to mailing me quasi-literate “scary” messages about how O’Malley’s bad for schools and crime.

    Dems in a walk.

  17. “You can’t actually expect the GOP not to use the same knife that the Dems have cut them with repeatedly when they get the chance, can you?”

    The fact that you, and the Maryland GOP, can’t tell the difference is what makes this such an insignificant wound.

    Indignant? More like amused. I love watching conservatives fall on their face when they stumble into racial issues.

    mitch,

    “If the Democrats suffer from GOP use of the race card, it will be sad, but there will be some element of poetic justice to it.” That’s an awfully big if. I can’t think of a case of it working yet, and I don’t expect it will.

    It’s ironic that, just as the GOP has decided it can get more mileage out of condemning statements for (allegedly) having a racial undertone than it can get from making statements with a racial undertone, the impact of “pound the table and scream about political correctness” has dropped off considerably.

    Perhaps it’s the years of overuse from the left. Perhaps it’s the particularly weak, transparent attempts by the right. Or perhaps the collapse of obvious anti-black politicking (Welfare Queens, William [never called Willie by anyone who knew him] Horton) as a campaign strategy now that the South is safely in the Republicans’ hands. For whatever reason, flimsy accusations of racism directed at political candidates are not terribly effective anymore, and are more likely to create blowback than movement for political figures who make them.

  18. joe said:
    “It’s not quite as though Hoyer doesn’t have a history of this type of racial innuendo.”

    “Holy shit. Let’s see. Two people somehow read the word “racist” into what I wrote.”

    You went so far out of your way to avoid calling him a racist that, in a story about him saying something that is allegedly racist, you accused him of having a history of racial innuendo.

    Gee, I hope you packed a lunch.

    Seriously, he’s not causing him a racist. He’s saying that the guy likes to make a big fuss and say Republicans pick certain candidates only because they’re black, not because of their merits. I don’t think that makes anyone racist. Neither the GOP for trying to capitalize on a black candidate, nor the Dems for pointing out that they’re just trying to capitalize. It’s just politics, scrabbling for any possible advantage.

  19. This little shield of a sentence is absurd, “the word “slavish” isn’t related to American slavery, after all.”

    Lets see…slavishly…. an adverb from the root word slave……a derivative of slavish meaning a characteristic of, belonging to or befitting a slave. Yep, your right, I can?t see anything at all that would relate that to ?American? slavery. Don?t give me some shit about where the word originated from either.

    In a nutshell, Hoyer said that an African-American that he thinks is doing the bidding of powerful white guys is acting ?slavishly.? I don’t care if you call it racist or not, but you have to admit it is stupid.

  20. Racial politics are stupid and obnoxious. I blame the Jews.

  21. Joe M,

    Innuendo: an indirect intimation about a person or thing, esp. of a disparaging or derogatory nature.

    A racial innuendo, then, would be an indirect intimation about a person’s race of a disparaging or derogatory nature.

    Accusing Hoyer of “having a history of racial innuendoes” is saying that he has a history of making indirect, derogatory intimations about peoples’ race.

  22. Honestly, who fucking cares what Steny Hoyer said or didn’t say about Michael Steele, or anyone else for that matter? This PC shit is so stale and played out.

    Personally, I wouldn’t care if he showed up to sessions in a KKK robe, as long as he voted to reduce government spending and meddling in our lives. Of course, I think there’s a greater chance of him actually attending a cross-burning with Robert Byrd…

  23. As Chevy Chase said: I don’t judge a man by the color of his skin, but by the size of his nostrils.

  24. My Polish-American friends and others of Slavic ancestry are offended by the use of the term “slave” to refer to persons of servitude. We need to retire this term, along with “Indian giver,” “gyp,” “Chinese wall” (in law firms), and “welsh” (as a verb).

  25. Seamus,

    Good sentiments, but I’m afraid the effort will only lead to a Mexican standoff.

  26. In a nutshell, Hoyer said that an African-American that he thinks is doing the bidding of powerful white guys is acting ?slavishly.? I don’t care if you call it racist or not, but you have to admit it is stupid.

    You know, I use the term about once every couple of weeks in one context or another. It never occurred to me to think about whether the possible racial implications of the term. I guess my failure to look for the racial angle of everything makes me a racist.

    Yeah, it was stupid of Hoyer, but that’s just because people play this stupid game of “gotcha.” The fact that the Dems started it doesn’t excuse Republicans who play it.

  27. Accusing Hoyer of “having a history of racial innuendoes” is saying that he has a history of making indirect, derogatory intimations about peoples’ race.

    So, saying that someone got their job solely because of their race isn’t making a derogatory intimation? Good to know.

  28. So, Joe. I guess we also need to be tolerant of people’s ignorance of the english language and not say anything that might offend them. Even if they misunderstand us or not understand any english. I could say more but I’ve made enough racial comments…. Joke them if they can’t take a fuck!

  29. So, Joe. I guess we also need to be tolerant of people’s ignorance of the english language and not say anything that might offend them. Even if they misunderstand us or not understand any english.

    It’s already been pointed out, but ‘ignorance of the english [sic] language’ is not the issue here. The word ‘slavish’ does, in fact, mean ‘like a slave’. And ‘gyp’ does come from Gypsy, ‘welch’ probably from ‘Welsh’ (although that is disputed), and ‘to Jew’ really does come from ‘Jew’ (duh…)
    And no, it’s not merely ‘political correctness’ to think about how you phrase things, under the heading ‘be sure brain is engaged…’
    Still, there’s no accounting for offensiveness. It’s impossible to predict what will offend people–there’s a range. It’s very likely someone will be offended if you call him a motherfucker. Is that ‘political correctness’? It’s much less likely they’ll be offended if you say they ‘suck’, although the etymology may be just as bad (jury’s out on that one). Calling someone a ‘villain’ is likely to cause offence, even though it originally meant ‘someone who lives in a fancy house’. This connotation stuff is hard, and probably not worth all the outrage and spilled ink it generates.

  30. The word ‘slavish’ does, in fact, mean ‘like a slave’. And ‘gyp’ does come from Gypsy, ‘welch’ probably from ‘Welsh’ (although that is disputed), and ‘to Jew’ really does come from ‘Jew’ (duh…).

    And boy, it really pisses off the Egyptians to be confused with those Roma.

  31. Hey Joe, “tar baby” is not a racial epithet?

    The next time you see a group of black guys, call one of them a “tar baby.” Explain how it’s not an epithet as they’re whipping your ass.

  32. Hey Joe, “tar baby” is not a racial epithet?

    The next time you see a group of black guys, call one of them a “tar baby.” Explain how it’s not an epithet as they’re whipping your ass.

    When it’s not being applied to a person, no, it’s not a racial epithet.

    Similarly, if joe were to use the word “chimpanzee” when referring to a group of black guys, yes, he’d get his ass whipped. I would hope that they would refrain from whipping his ass if he merely used it to refer to, say, a group of chimpanzees.

  33. Seamus,

    At the hazard of defending joe, I believe he states quite clearly that using “tar baby” in a racial context is not very wise. Your example merely takes that to its logical extreme.

  34. fyodor:

    But Tony Snow’s use of “tar baby” *wasn’t* in a racial context.

  35. If you know the history of the whole KKT campaign back in 2002 and since, you know that MD Dems HAVE made racial attacks on Steele and the GOP and the Baltimore Sun in its endorsement of KKT even said “Steele brings nothing to the table but his race.”

    So while I agree about the context and things not always being “racial”- there is a lot of that stuff in MD concerning Steele over the last 6 years. And both he and Ehrlich have received solid support from even liberal blacks. Perhaps because they dont believe all blacks should slavishly support Democrats?

    I dont need to get into the Oreo cookie stuff now do I?

  36. jf,

    “So, saying that someone got their job solely because of their race isn’t making a derogatory intimation? Good to know.”

    It is a degotatory intimation. It is derogatory towards the Republicans who chose Steele, and it is degrogatory towards Steele’s abilities and qualifications.

    Glad I could clear that up for you.

    Eric Atkinson,

    Bubba Z,

    Please look up the word “context,” and stop being such a dumbass. Oh, was that an offensive term? Good.

    Dumbass.

  37. Seamus,

    I think the attacks on Tony Snow are completely unfair. Like the DC “niggardly” controversy, that was just a case of too many people having a lousy vocabulary.

    johnjacksonIII, (if that is your real name),

    “the Baltimore Sun in its endorsement of KKT even said “Steele brings nothing to the table but his race.” Let me know when you get to the “racial attack” part.

    “I dont need to get into the Oreo cookie stuff now do I?” You mean the story about people allegedly throwing Oreos at Steele at a debate? The one where there were hundreds of people in the hall, and no one in the audience saw anything? The episode that no one in the Steele campaign knew anything about for three days? Go ahead, bring up the “Oreo cookie” incident. I dare you.

  38. By the way, when are we going to require Niger and Nigeria to change their racist names?

  39. It is derogatory towards the Republicans who chose Steele, and it is degrogatory towards Steele’s abilities and qualifications.

    Well, then, it sounds like we pretty much agree that:

    1) Hoyer isn’t a racist, and
    2) His statements were derogatory, as I’m sure they were intended to be.

    Again, to clear up the only point I’ve made, Hoyer has done this in the past, so when he decided to play the card (Steele only being where he is because he’s a black Republican) he shouldn’t be surprised when Steele tries to make political hay from it.

  40. jf,

    The important part of “an indirect intimation about a person or thing, esp. of a disparaging or derogatory nature” in the definition of the word “innuendo” is “indirect.”

    Calling Steele a token, saying that he got his job because of his race, was a direct and forthright statement on Hoyer’s part.

    What’s the innuendo beneath this? I read your comment to mean there was an indirect intimation to Hoyer’s words, in addition to his straightforward statement of Tokenism in the Republican Party. Did I misunderstand you?

    If someone wanted to write a book about Republicans in the 2006 midterm election races in Maryland and Pennsylvania, they could call it “Between Token and Tolkein.”

  41. We hate bigots around here. The only people we hate more than bigots are spics.

    (from Strangers with Candy)

  42. yes, coyote, the image is from Kentucky Fried Movie

  43. “The only people we hate more than bigots are spics.”

    Well, just as long as there aren’t any…

    I can’t type it. I just can’t. I thought I could type that line, but I can’t.

    Lord, that’s a funny movie.

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