Republican Rep. Lynn Westmoreland of Georgia has refused to apologize for calling Barack and Michelle Obama uppity. He has released a statement claiming that he has never heard the term uppity used in a racial way. He is from Georgia, and has never heard the term used that way. Does anybody buy this?
“Honestly, I’ve never paid that much attention to Michelle Obama,” Westmoreland said to CQ Politics. “Just what little I’ve seen of her and Senator [Barack] Obama, is that they’re a member of an elitist class…that thinks that they’re uppity.”
Westmoreland defended his use of the term in a 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.”
Technically, his dictionary definition is correct. However words also take on a social context and meaning. The dictionary also gives an example of how this term is used, “But maybe also these midwives are just getting too uppity and need to learn their place.” We all know that this is what Westmoreland was really saying. Barack and Michelle Obama need to learn their place. In this context, he was implying the Obamas are black people with money who think that they are better than what they are.
Believe it or not, Lynn Westmoreland is seriously considering a run for governor in 2010. These are the kind of comments that can derail a gubernatorial campaign before it ever starts. His remark was shameful, but it goes to show that race is still a factor in this campaign. Should Obama win this election, comments such as Westmoreland’s, are evidence of why his victory will be so historic and important.