I've visited my usual array of websites today, and many of them had a clip of John Kerry using a racist slur; I know of it primarily as such, and I'm sure others do as well. It was the word "tar baby". And I felt sick and uncomfortable and didn't watch the clip because I felt like I didn't need to see it to get its full effect. Guess what? I did. So here's the clip:
Because John Kerry wasn't using it as a racist epitaph. He was using it in its original context, and was referring to a situation rather than a person. Which is something I probably should have anticipated anyway, given that it was John Kerry and not someone whose political ideals were more in line with George Wallace. I mainly know "tar baby" through its rather unwholesome associations, but I remember the stories about Br'er Rabbit and Br'er Fox and Uncle Remus; I've actually seen Song of the South. John Kerry used the term correctly, though its usage has become mainstreamed as something not so benign for quite a while now. So I don't really get the big fuss. To me, this is kind of like using the word "bitch" at a dog show: "That is a lovely bitch". I get up in arms about the term normally, because its mainstream use is nowhere near nice and it is derogatory. But there are some situations where it is a perfectly acceptable word, and dog shows are one of those places. And so is a description of a political mire as a "tar baby". I don't know; maybe that's just my white showing.