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The Final Word on Snow's Slur

May 21, 2006

Last week, White House press secretary Tony Snow used his virgin press briefing to reintroduce the racial slur "tar baby" back into the vernacular. But while an unrepentant Snow attacked his critics as "unfamiliar with the pathways of American culture," it would appear that eBay offers a clear picture as to why Random House suggests "avoiding the use of the term in any context."

As it turns out, an eBay seller by the name of "Our Southern Collectibles" offers Tar Baby Toilet Soap and other supposed "black Americana" among its large selection of products from the South's days of yore. The image on that bar of soap pretty much says it all; so much for Snow's shared "pathway of American culture."
The point, of course, is not to stand in judgment of the eBay seller community. (In fact, its profile suggests that "Our Southern Collectibles" appears to have very satisfied customers.) Instead, it just goes to show the comfort Tony Snow and his amen corner in the Republican Party display in casually tossing out terms of racial derision and expressing fondness for Confederate nostalgia.
Now, at least, we know what Tony Snow should use to wash out his mouth.

9 comments on “The Final Word on Snow's Slur”

  1. You're very selective in your choice of images to make your point. There are many other books, ads, and products that offer a different picture.

  2. thanks jeff,
    For putting up a little fight there to keep saying Tar Baby and supporting the negative images associated with it. Glad to know you have to courage to stand up for what you believe in.

  3. I've been around for a half century, was raised in the North and lived many years in the Midwest. The people I've spent most of my time with have been fairly well to well educated. The only times I have heard this term used was as a slur, referring to African American children, and by people known, or suspected, to be racists.
    The fact that it originates from a literary piece is not necessarily applicable, as words can be co-opted, and used for other purposes. Since this particular term has been co-opted by racists, and used as a racial slur, it should be avoided by anyone doing public speaking and, most definitely, someone speaking on behalf of OUR government.

  4. It isn't necessary to pull his robes off...we know where this cone head comes from and subsequently the kind of people he hangs out ain't France.

  5. I've also been around for half a century, was born and lived for many years in the West and now live in the mid-West. I have NEVER heard this term used in a racial context. While I have no use for a single thing the Bush admin has done (except possibly for pardoning the turkey at Thanksgiving), this controversy is absurd. In what way, shape, or form can Tony Snow's statement be construed as racist?
    I'd suggest you find something out about the provenance of the Uncle Remus stories:

  6. " In what way, shape, or form can Tony Snow's statement be construed as racist?"
    Daz an easy one!
    See here child, mos all words has many a meanin! And many's the time someone SLAPS you upside yo head whif a word, only to run and hide behind de other meanin, sayin dey didn't mean what YOU thought dey did!
    Sho nuff, it don't matter nohow if Snow Whitey hates us darkies or not. All dat matters is dat de Massuh's chillins an all dey's chillins after them goes out an votes fo Snow Whitey's freinds!
    And dat's why Snow Whitey done told ALL de Massuh's kin not to worry none, cause he's one of dem!

  7. oddly enough tony snow was born in the same small town as i--berea ky.
    madison county has a long history of racial tolerance. berea college's main creed is tolerance for others and has for generations admitted students from all over the world and lots of poor white and black appalachians have been educated there.
    that's one reason why i take particular exception to his offhand defense of a racist term that i haven't even heard for decades--most people i know cring when we hear 'the pot calling the kettle black' thing. but references to tar babies and sambo have been justly verboden as they are considered the most hated racial slurs...slurs i haven't heard since the mid sixties and rarely then.
    it's people like him who keep hurting the reputation of our state and its people. please remember that racism is not confined to the southern states--new hampshire most recently proving that.
    just a p.s. helen thomas is from winchester another small central kentucky mom and me are big fans of hers--i love that the white house and all its minions are so afraid of her questions.

  8. to jeff and tree, if you think that term is perfectly fine to use in any context...i would like to challenge you to go to some public place--the mall or maybe a ball game--and when you see a black family go up to them and comment on their pretty little tar baby in the stroller and see how fast your stupid racist head gets knocked off.
    you can't be that oblivious to the meanings of these hurtful're just a plain racist and don't like to be called out on it.

  9. Jenny, Tony Snow said "... stick to that tar baby...." This is a common, accepted phrase in our current society ... except for nimrods who want to make something out of anything. It comes from the famous, Uncle Remus stories. It's similar to saying "touch the third rail..." and other phrases that you use every day to help make your point. Tony Snow did not call any child a "tar baby." Please stick with facts not your fantasy.


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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