Perhaps this explains the behavior of people like Marilyn Davenport, the GOP
official in Southern California who sent colleagues an e-mail with Obama's face
superimposed on the image of a chimpanzee. Telling was Davenport's non-apologetic
"We all know a double standard applies regarding this president," she
wrote. "I received plenty of e-mails about George Bush that I didn't particularly
like, yet there was no 'cry' in the media about them."
Yes, of course. Bush isn't black, but if he were he'd know his place. He wouldn't
go off acting uppity.
For all the epithets thrown at black Americans, "uppity" qualifies
as one of the more offensive terms spewed during the 1950s and early 60s. It
underscored the fact that even as blacks struggled to achieve equal rights, they
continued to be denied their dignity.
As invoked back then, it was confirmation that law provided only technical
guarantees; emotional discrimination persisted long after civil rights were granted.
Blacks were expected to know their place.
Bill White, the acclaimed baseball player, broadcaster and executive, has
chosen the word "Uppity" as the title of his new book about being a
black athlete during an era when Jackie Robinson and Larry Doby had broken the
barriers, but the walls of prejudice remained. White saw baseball and society
from many perspectives - as a star first baseman with the Cardinals, Giants and
Phillies; a broadcaster with the Yankees, and president of the National League.
In 1959, when White found himself languishing on the Giants' depth chart behind
future Hall of Famers Orlando Cepeda and Willie McCovey, he asked to be traded.
Chub Feeney, a top executive on the club, said White was "uppity" for
daring to make such a request.
Uppity? According to White, "It's a person, especially someone of a different
color, who says, 'Hell no' and stands his ground."
This uppity factor is why the looming presidential campaign of 2012 is likely
to be so vicious, regardless of whom the Republicans come up with as a candidate.
Many Americans, for whom racism lies just beneath the emotional surface, believe
denying the nation's first black president a second term is more important than
trying to defeat him in the first place. Term One honored the office; Term Two
would honor the man.
It rankles some to see a black man stepping off of Air Force One, hobnobbing
with the rich and powerful, and throwing out the first pitch. Maybe a less uppity
black president would have the sense to stay out of sight, without seeming to
enjoy the trappings of high office.
It has boiled over repeatedly during the Obama Presidency - from Rep. Joe
Wilson's outburst of "You lie!" during the '09 State of the Union speech,
to Donald Trump's outrageous challenge of Obama's very citizenship. It's probably
why Fox commentator Sean Hannity incessantly refers to Obama as "The Anointed
In his memorable speech on race during the 2008 campaign, Obama spoke of his
white grandmother, "a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who
passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial
or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe." People who struggle, and sometimes
fail, to overcome the fear that leads to racism are nonetheless, said Mr. Obama, "a
part of America, this country that I love."
Bill White recalls playing a minor-league game in North Carolina six years
after Jackie Robinson had already broken the color line with the Dodgers. For
nine solid innings as he stood at his position, White heard calls of "nigger" and "coon" from
the stands. As he ran off the field, he waved his middle finger in the direction
of the most vulgar spectators.
Outside the stadium, he was confronted by a middle-aged white woman who poked
him in the shoulder. "Boy," she said, "you got some nerve being
disrespectful to all these people."
Bill White's uppity all right. And if President Obama has any of that in him,
it only makes him more deserving of the extraordinarily difficult position he
As for the rest of us, should we tolerate much more of this? Hell no.
(c) Peter Funt. This column was originally distributed by the Cagle Syndicate.