For those who still think the election of Barack Obama as the nation’s first African American president has ushered in the era of post-racial politics, consider the racially loaded terms "tar baby" and "boy."
Both slurs have returned to the political arena, forcing those uttering them — a sitting congressman and a prominent commentator who tried to become president himself — to quickly backtrack and explain the usage.
Amid the fiercely partisan battles over raising the debt ceiling, Colorado Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn took to the airwaves last week to criticize Obama’s policies, infelicitously comparing them to a “tar baby.” The tar baby is a doll made of tar and turpentine used to entrap Br'er Rabbit in the second of the Uncle Remus stories. While it is was originally used to mean a sticky situation, it has also come to be widely considered a racist term to describe African Americans.
In a letter to Obama, Lamborn apologized for using the phrase. In a statement, Lamborn said he was attempting to tell a radio audience that Obama’s “policies have created an economic quagmire for the nation and are responsible for the dismal economic conditions our country faces. He regrets that he chose the phrase ‘tar baby,’ rather than the word ‘quagmire.’ ”