Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Sat Nov 26 01:13:38 UTC 2011

On Nov 25, 2011, at 7:59 PM, James A. Landau wrote:

> On Wed, 23 Nov 2011 10:21:58 zone minus 0500  Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU> writes:
>> Unless I missed it, nobody has commented on the recent flap over Rush Limbaugh's use of "uppity" to >describe Michelle Obama. Glenn Beck has since defended Limbaugh on the grounds that "uppity" is just a
>> synonym for "snobbish".
> When I saw the headline on Netscape News, my first thought was "I should hope so.  I'd hate to discover she's an Aunt Thomasina."
> One can claim "uppity" is a "racist" word, but I think not.  What happens is that "uppity" has such a specific meaning that it rarely occurs outside a race-relations context, which means that the text surrounding the word can easily be racist, but not the word itself.
> "Uppity" can most easily be defined by naming its antonym: "Uncle Tom/Aunt Thomasina".
> A brief excursion into the socio-political realm.  In the heyday of Segregation (note the capital "S"), Segregationists by-and-large were not so much black-haters as people desirious that "[blacks] know their place".  An "uppity [black]" was a black who objected to being "kept in his place".  Well, times change, and while racism unfortunately still exists, the old "stay in their place" paradigm no longer exists.  As a spectacular example, the supporters of Clarence Thomas for the Supreme Court included a large number of white right-wing [1] bigots.  But "keeping Thomas in his place"?  Not hardly.

And along these lines, some of the coverage of the Limbaugh usage included a clip of the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings, when he claimed that he was the victim of a high-tech lynching because he was "uppity".  So for the white-wingers there's good uppity and bad uppity.  Neither, however, in active use to describe the melanin-challenged.
> [I would like to thank my friend Jackie Gomberg MD (not to be confused with my friend Jackie Goldberg MD) for suggests a useful shorthand phrase: "white-wingers".)
very nice


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