Congressman Calls Obamas “Uppity”

Georgia Republican Rep. Lynn Westmoreland used the racially-tinged term “uppity” to describe Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama Thursday. In discussing Palin’s speech with reporters outside the House chamber, a reporter asked Westmoreland to compare Palin with Michelle Obama.  Here’s what she said:

“Just from what little I’ve seen of her and Mr. Obama, Sen. Obama, they’re a member of an elitist-class individual that thinks that they’re uppity,” Westmoreland said.

Asked to clarify that he used the word “uppity,” Westmoreland said, “Uppity, yeah.”

As MissLaura writing at The Daily Kos notes, this is a case in which Westmoreland forgot to go through the usual step of encoding his racism.

The word “uppity” has a long history in the U.S. as the first half of a racist term.  Historically, this word is followed by the N-word.    There’s also a gendered component to this word, as women who are feminists have sometimes been called “uppity.”  The use of this word is a form of social control deployed by people in positions of power to maintain a position of dominance of those they perceive to be “above their station” in the social hierarchy.     The sort of racism that Rep. Westmoreland expressed here often operates just below the surface, in the back stage of private conversations, in American society.   What’s remarkable about this instance is that it erupted into the front stage with reporters standing by, taking notes.    Those who want to see Obama elected dismiss and ignore this phenomena – and the appealing whiteness of the republican ticket – at their peril.