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Rep. Westmoreland says he was clueless in making 'uppity' comment about the Obamas

Heretofore little-known Rep. Lynn Westmoreland of Georgia was born in 1950 in Atlanta and was raised in one of its surrounding communities.

Rep. Which means the Republican grew up at a time when the racial divide in the South was stark, a time when Jim Crow laws helped enforce a segregationist credo that limited opportunities for blacks, a time when -- as an Atlanta Journal-Constitution article puts it today -- "uppity" was "a word applied to African-Americans who tried to rise above servile positions."

But to hear Westmoreland tell it, he had no clue he was using a racially tinged word when, as reported by The Hill newspaper, he said in Washington this week: "Honestly, I've never paid that much attention to Michelle Obama. Just what little I've seen of her and Sen. [Barack] Obama, is that they're a member of an elitist class ... that thinks that they're uppity."

The remark, the Journal-Constitution reports, quickly "zipped around the Internet, causing Westmoreland’s office phones to ring off the hook."

That furor, in turn, prompted the two-term congressman to issue the following 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.

The Ticket finds it amazing that someone with such a sheltered upbringing could achieve such success in life.

-- Don Frederick

Photo: Associated Press


Comments () | Archives (177)

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The Congressman CERTAINLY knows what the word uppity means and its other word that follows it. that word starts with N--ger. Those who got to be known as that in the Reps district,usaully had a very brief lifespan since such uppity types were LYNCHED ! So I find it absurd for him to say such crap. I was born and raised in the South during segregation, and I KNOW exactly what he means.

"I’ve never heard that term used in a racially derogatory sense."

He's joking, right? I'm 20 years younger, live up North, and even I know the word usually follows "uppity".

If you're gonna lie, at least have the decency to respect our intelligence, and try to make it believable.

God said, in relation to our position regarding Israel, "I will bless them that bless thee, and I will curse them that curse thee."

It's that simple. Wanna curse on yourself from God, just keep on cursing Israel, you'll get what you ask for.

Can anyone say "McCaca? Remember Allen of VA? Seems Reps. never seem to understand the culture of their past. Sort of like the Rep. Convention - Bush 43 never existed.

Race IS the issue of this campaign. Is this country ready to vote for a superior candidate even though he is black with an Islamic name?

Right now it should be a landslide for Obama vs. the tired old jacka$$ McCain and his uber wench "Palin the Terrible."

Two candidates unfit for office.

Other code words: "not comfortable with him" "Not ready" "I just don't trust him." "Isn't she wonderful!"

This is the referendum. This is the turning point.

I too feel that his comment was offensive, but please respond with a sense dignity. No need to define or insert other pejoratives on this thread. Yes, I am also black, so I do know what he was trying to infer. Use your votes to confront this bigotry.

Yeah and when he called him a "spade" its cause his head kinda looks like a shovel.............

I guess he never saw the movie "In the Heat of the Night"!
The Republicans, reflecting their Dixiecratic infection, seem to want to appeal to those who think that ignorance is a virtue. Given the fact that, at one time, it was illegal for Black people to read, it must be down right insulting for some that a Black person would be Harvard educated.

I'm sorry to say that the racist branch of my family, usually democratic voters, will probably not vote this election. My 77 yr-old mother is especially offended by the possibility of Michelle Obama as first lady. She won't come out and say "uppity-n*****", but that is what she is thinking.

The Republicans know this, it is their main strategy. And they have developed lots of euphemistic code words so that the racists out there can feel a little more comfortable with their racism. Inexperienced, arrogant, presumptuous = uppity-n. Westmoreland simply forgot that he is supposed to use the code words to stay on script.

I also grew up in the south during the 1950's and I have never heard this word uppity as a racial slur. I lived on the South side of Atlanta and that is what we always called the folks on the North side. Until the Black folks, or is it afro-american this week, get the big chip off of their shoulders, nothing is ever going to change. I'm sure the Congressman meant nothing racial by saying that Obama is uppity. He is very uppity considering some of the Georgia folks we have around here. What are we suppose to do? Walk on egg shells or hired a black interrupter. Give me a Break!

Posted by: pinkie | September 05, 2008 at 07:07 PM


Stop it. That is wht you are supposed to do. And if you took the time to look beyond your own racial fears and hatreds and realize you are hurling venom at fellow citizens, you wouldn't need an INTERPRETER to explain anything to you.

You know, maybe you should learn to walk a bit more lightly and stop stepping over you own tongue. Even in your defense you contradict yourself. You called Blacks uppity but it wasn't racial. Doesn't even pass the laugh test, Hon.

The republican congressman is a IDIOT period just like the repubican congress, completely out of touch with reality or the times.

Well, I am a white, middle class, southerner who grew up in the south the same time as the gentleman from Georgia. My high school was called the Rebels and was not integrated with the black high school until 1968. I can tell you this: this gentleman certainly knows what "uppity" means when white southerns talk about minorities! I guarantee you his parents said it, his grandparents said it and his friends said it although they used much less acceptable words than "blacks" or "minorities".

I could write a book on the ingrained racism built into southern society during the years this man grew up. Notice how casually he dropped this phase which shows just how his mind works when describing those not like him. I assure you "uppity" is another word for anyone being accused of being not good enough for the place they were aspiring to achieve!

What a liar this man is (and notice I dropped "gentleman")!

What a racist jerk! He is also the stupidest member of congress. He couldn't name the 10 commandments even though he wrote a bill to try have them displayed in congress. I am going to make a donation to his competition now and I will do it every 2 years until he is out. Viva la internet!

It's beyond my comprehension that Westmoreland, in his defensive statement of “ignorance” could issue such and outrageously obvious lie. We ALL (peaceful, thinking people) know full well that he understands completely what the term "uppity" means. ESPECIALLY since he grew up in the south! I've lived in TX my whole life and know this is a word terminology that, if you are socially conscience, you would absolutely without a doubt KNOW is just downright nasty and derogatory! I’m a white woman, 49 yrs old. My momma would have “slapped my mouth” (figuratively) if she’d ever heard me say that kind of thing! You know, this is just the kind of thing that the Republican party has come to stand for. They try to tap into the ignorant masses who harbor this divisive hatred by putting things like this out there. Of course, and then there’s THIS guy…pleading ignorance. Unbelievable! If ANY of you are considering voting for this party of HATE and DIVISIVNESS, I beg you to stop this insanity now. There's no room in the world for this kind of backwards crap! Please EVOLVE yourselves beyond this petty, and hateful way of living, thinking, and being!

"behaving in a way that other people consider presumptuous and more suited to a higher social class or position" to quote Microsoft, I'd say Westmoreland is
uppity, just by the mere fact that he made this statement gives indication that he feels Mr. Obama doesn't have the American right to aspire to a higher level of success.

Well I guess we'll have to take Mr. Morelands comments seriously and not allow "uppity" people to be in office and vote is "uppity" a- s out of office next go round.

Should we be surprised that John "No Day for MLK" McCain has deployed his racist supporters to spread the essential message of Rep. Westmoreland's statement? Devoid of ideas for addressing the rapacious dishonesty of the past eight years, John McCain has nothing to offer beyond as hominem attacks and readmongering -- the Bush agenda, if you recall. Once, the senator actually did put his country first, but in his unapologetic pandering to the people he once rightly said "bring shame to our party and our country" he has become the Me First candidate. Someday, he may remember to be ashamed of his late-life power lust.

Apparently, he is clueless but not about his use of the word "uppity" as a racial code word. He's just clueless, if he thinks the sort of defense he offered for his expression of racism will be accepted by anyone except his fellow bigots.

Good to see this has A LOT of people upset. Why don't we all write Rep. Westmoreland and politely request that he apologize (even if he was truly ignorant of the word's connotations) and then withdraw his re-election bid. I can't dig up an email address. But if you go to:
and tell the form that you are from Georgia with the zip code 30265

it claims that the House of Representatives mail system will deliver the message. If anyone can dig up a more direct email address, they ought to post that here and elsewhere.

I 've been waiting for this word to be used by the Republicans to describe Obama. During this whole campaign many of you have also heard other words which were code words for the same word uppity. 1.Elitist 2. Presumptuous 3,The one . 4. Celebrity All of these words were used to create a sense of resentment toward Barack Obama among all of those (Hard Working White Americans ). John McCain and those whom his campaign tagerted certainly understood what was being said. and the use of the word uppity by
Westmoreland was simply a word that the Republicans had basically been using all along. These code words were directed at the southern states and states like Indiana, Pennsylvania, Ohio ect . As much as I love America I hate the people who divide us simply for the purpose of attaining power.

This is absolutely despicable! Why isn't everyone Yelling - guess this is the type of thinking that the McCain campaign employs. They no nothing but everyone in America shoulld Fear McCain racism!

What an ignorant jerk. He is using ignorance as his defense. It's more like stupidity. The fewer Republicans we have in office the better.

I think the comment and explanation by Westmoreland are excellent as they demonstrate how far we have yet to grow to be a humane and civilized country. This is not a political party issue. The comment was very offensive as is typical of people, from any party, who want to perpetuate this type of bias. The attempt at his explanation is demonstrative of how dishonest, or stupid, this grown-up is. It plays favorably to others who share the same emotional disposition and want to detract from meaningful issues that both major parties are not solving. Maybe, we Americans should create a priority list and mandate that congress and the president's administration do "the peoples' business" or we kick them out of office. Belonging to one party or another would then matter very little. Issues on the priority list would matter.
Tony Padilla

Why is it that we keep electing people who have no idea what words mean? Aren't we supposed to put the most capable people in power? Then why are the most ignorant people leading us?

Bob from Canada, your closing comments perfectly reflect the frustration that many Americans feel.

Yeah right!

I don't buy what Westmoreland is saying because the word uppity was used to describe any black person who dared to defy the status quo. Especially if that individual was coming across as intelligent and well heeled.

Lynn dear you grew up in the South and that is a very well known racial slur. Stop lying and just admit that you can't stand the thought of a black man being your boss.

"WOW... What a stupid cracker!" ~ Stephen Colbert

See Rep. Westmoreland make a fool of himself on "The Colbert Report"...

Robert Scroggs, you are truly lost indeed, and reflecting your own racial prejudices. What has McCain said about putting food on your table and lowering the price of gas that Obama HASN'T addressed? No one said anything whatsoever about you not wanting to vote for Obama, about him being socialist, elitest, or about equating not accepting his politics as being racist towards him, and that's whether we AGREE that he is either socialist or elitest (which is a joke considering Obama being raiseed in a single parent home, on fod stamps until his grandparents took over, and the fact that McCain can't retell how many homes he has). The issue was the words being racist and the speaker sould have known better. The dictionary gives DEnotations, in case you didn't know. The CONnotations of that word are the same, when used of Blacks. Culture and time haven't changed that yet. Does nigger mean something other than a derogatory term for blacks now, or spade because the dictionary defines spade as a gardening tool? Do you regularly call grown white men "boy"? I didn't think so. But, why not? Doesn't the dictionary define it as a young male? Sorry, but feigning ignorance just won't work this time. Dems don't have to manufacture racism; it already exists, and not just in the Republican party. There are also racist Democrats, in case you didn't know. You think the 40 years since MLK was assassinated is enough time to erase it? Does the Klan still exist? Do other white supremacist groups? I guess, according to you, racial profiling is also a myth. So let's just return to Jim Crow. Separate but equal wasn't racist in theory either, but affimative action sure as hell is. Some of you white peaople and your hate just KILL me....

This is the same guy that Steven Colbert humiliated in an interview. It would be painful to watch if it wasn't so...satisfying.

This counter question needs to be asked:

Have you ever called a White person uppity?

Come on! The GOP isn't racist. Didn't you see those non-whites, at the convention, both of them?

I am not one to look for racism in everything said, about Obama, but calling him 'uppity' is code and is intended to reach anyone who is on the fence about Obama racially.

Lynn was saying that the Obamas need to "Stay in their Place". He knew exactly what he was saying. I guess they are "Uppity" beacuse they were not saying "yessir Master" when talking and do not hang their head down. That dang man knew exactly what he was saying.

I do not care that he can't stand the sight of a black person doing well for his/her family, but stop lying about it

"I personally did not know that "uppity" meant anything 'ther than being "too big for one's britches"'

Yes but if one was "too big for one's britches" and was black, it was a hanging offense.

He's either stupid or a racist; neither qualify him for office; both qualify him as a Republican.

Are you people totally crazy??? Since when did the work "uppity", which is synonomous with 'snobbish', elitist, etc. become a racist term? Are we now willing to totally trash our Freedom of Speech and begin to ask permission before we utter one word, or print one word, in fear that we'll be call racists? I am a 5th generation Latina American, and never have I seen so many duped Americans live in fear of being called racists. Are we now at a point of so much fear that we'll have to ask permission of every single black person in this country for permission to utter one single word??? UPPITY, UPPITY, UPPITY, UPPITY. As for me, I'm going to keep exercisting my Freedom of Speech and even use this Uppity word even more. Wake Up America!! You're being duped and fooled and losing all your inalieanable rights!!

What's the problem ? Anyone can try and be uppity. I'm black and I think both Barack Obama and Michelle are UPPITY. That's one of the reasons I'm not voting for Obama. I would hate for white people to hear some of the degrading and racist comments I hear some blacks make about them in private. I say this because it's true, and I face so much hate from blacks if I state that I'm not voting for Barack Obama. Too many blacks are voting for Obama only because they see him as black and they have a chance to vote against the whites.

this is the infamous Stephen Colbert / Lynn Westmoreland interview wherein Westmoreland is unable to name more than 3 of the 10 Commandments (and is obviously unable to understand Colbert's sarcasm)

I was born in 1947 (three years before Westmoreland). Normally, I try to be polite in my posts (as befits an OWG).

But, with his "I had no idea" excuse, Westmoreland can only be described as a dick.

I know he has seen Blazing Saddles!

come on. i was born after him, farther north than him.... and 90% of the time i ever heard the word "uppity" it was immediately followed by "hte n word".

Remember this is the guy who pushed for inclusion of the ten commandments on court buildings, but when pressed to recite them, couldn't.

Gotta love it. The GOP: the gift that keeps on giving.

Seriously. I grew up in rural Nebraska. I didn't meet a black person until college, in 1978. AND I KNOW BETTER THAN TO USE THE WORD UPPITY. But its usefull to know the mentally challenged are allowed to serve in Congress, though I have suspected it for many years now, and it explains quite a lot about Lee Terry, Jeff Fortenberry, and Adrian Smith.

This yahoo is a troll. There was nothing accidental about his use of the word uppity. His type know full well how to 'rile folks' by using loaded words to draw fire.Look at the reaction ,here.
Westy's use of uppity says more about him and his pathetic,redneck-upbringing than it does our future POTUS ,Barack.

People,keep focused on the goal.

The only thing missing from Westmoreland's attire is his white robe and hat.

For all of you whining "freedom of speech!" Of course this idiot has the right to use the word "uppity." And I have the right to call him a racist jerk for doing it. That's freedom of speech also. And I put my money where my mouth is and donated to Stephen Camp's campaign because it annoyed me so. Another freedom. I respect a person's right to say anything they want (including the KKK and neo-Nazis and other right wing nut jobs) but I don't have to respect them or what they say.

What a stupid cracker. But open and transparent!!!

Having lived in Texas all 68 years of my life, I have never heard "uppity" used as a racial slur.

>"I'm sure the Congressman meant nothing racial by saying that Obama is uppity. He is very uppity considering some of the Georgia folks we have around here. What are we suppose to do? Walk on egg shells or hired a black interrupter. Give me a Break!"<

No. I don't think you get a break this time. Ignorance is no excuse. The fact is that we are all sick and tired of ignorant people running our country. We're sick and tired of excuses being made for ignorance and incompetence. For you to not grasp the implications of the term "uppity" is to accept the idea that you've been living in a social vacuum for your entire life, and that's some kind of excuse for being an ignorant racist. If that's the case, then you and this Bozo that represents the other morons in his district are ill suited to guide this country. When we talk about "Change".....what is it that you think we are talking about?

This is just another example of the bigots in the Republican party. George Allen with his "macaca" remark, and now Westmoreland with "uppity." Why would any person from a minority (any minority) vote for these idiots? Why do we elect these people? Have these ignorant fools made it past the 8th grade? Is this why they accuse the Obamas of being elitists (who actually worked for what they now have...unlike John McCain (10 homes and a parking lot) or George W. (I've ruined everything I've touched) Bush...the real "elitists") because they don't know how to use a dictionary? We need to get rid of the ignorance and racism in our political offices. And yes. The offices really are ours. These bozos are supposed to be working for us.
Moreland must be voted out next election.

As a Georgian who suffers through Mr. Westmoreland's tenure as a member of Congress from my state, I am not surprised that he was "clueless" about the racial implications of his "uppity" remark. Mr. Westmoreland is clueless about a great many things. For example, his famous interview by Stephen Colbert documents that he is clueless about the 10 Commandments, despite his sponsership of leglislation to require their posting in public buildings. Check out the interview on Youtube. You will see how truly stupid Mr. Westmoreland is.

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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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