Republican congressman from Georgia, Lynn Westmoreland, recently referred to Senator Barack Obama and his wife Michelle as “uppity.” When pressed by Democrats to apologize for his comments, Westmoreland stood by his comments and said that he meant no offense. Westmoreland, a lawmaker from Grantville, GA, speaking to reporters, described the Obamas as members of an “elitist-class … that thinks that they’re uppity,” according to The Hill, a Capitol Hill newspaper. When asked whether he intended to use the word, he said, “Yeah, uppity.”
In a statement, Westmoreland — a white man who was born in 1950 and raised in the segregated South — said he didn’t know that “uppity” was commonly used as a derogatory term for blacks seeking equal treatment. O.k, first of all, yes, “uppity” is a racial term and for Westmoreland , a 58 year old man from rural Georgia to claim that he didn’t know the term was considered racist only adds insult to injury. I’m certain the congressman heard the term more than once and fully understood it as a word to describe blacks, who white folks felt were trying to move above their expected station in life.
I guess for a black man to have the audacity to be well educated, successful, intelligent, charismatic and to be on the verge of being elected President of the United States does seem to be a little “uppity” to those who believe blacks should “stay in their place.” Westmoreland’s comments imply that Obama is making things quite uncomfortable for those with a “fear of a Black President.”
Elistism is when you look down on others of a lower social status. Westmoreland, along with others, are obviously challenged by Obama, a Harvard graduate, who is intellectually superior to many of his colleagues in government. Unfortunately, his academic and political success has resulted in accusations of elitism, which is code word for “uppity.”
Sadly, Westmoreland isn’t the first Republican lawmaker to make racially tinged comments about Obama. Rep. Steve King of Iowa said that because of Obama’s middle name – Hussein – that if he were elected, “Then the radical Islamists, al Qaeda and their supporters, will be dancing in the streets…” Kentucky Rep. Geoff Davis said of Obama: “I’m going to tell you something: That boy’s finger does not need to be on the button. He could not make a decision in that simulation that related to a nuclear threat to this country.” Wow, the first black nominee of a major political party described in Southern segregationist terms as a “boy” and as “uppity” by 21st century Republican congressman. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Given the inability of those stuck in a time warp to accept the fact that blacks can be successful in the same arenas as everyone else, I consider racially charged comments such as Westmoreland’s to be a compliment. Yes, I too, am an “uppity Negro.” “Uppity,” as a remixed term, requires you to turn around and help those who are in a lower social status the ones who don’t have the same opportunities that have been afforded to you. While the term is meant by the GOP congressional hit squad as a negative, we should embrace it as a positive. What it really connotes for Obama to have haters like Westmoreland and Davis is that he is doing the right thing. He joins a long list of African Americans, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who have been labeled as “uppity” over the years. If being intelligent, determined, confident, and successful makes black people “uppity,” we could use a few more “uppity Negroes.”