Okay, comrades. Short, shameful confession time.
Until recently— as in earlier this year— I didn't know that "uppity" is a racially loaded term. Happily, I'm ignorant no longer, and I'm thankful that I didn't make the discovery by using it inappropriately. So, you'd think maybe I might be more sympathetic to Mr. Westmoreland and his gaffe. I'm not.
He already stepped in it once when he appeared on The Colbert Report.
I think he's bullshitting us now with his stupid claim that he didn't know that uppity is a racially loaded term. Why do I say that?
“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,” Westmoreland said.
Um. Yeah, that would be a mill village deep in the tribal mountain territories of Neoconfederate Redneckistan. My ass, you didn't know that it was racially loaded.
I grew up in Southern California— which truly does have its own race problems, and I do not mean for them to be overlooked as I draw attention to the unresolved racial issues still plaguing the South— but the explanation for my ignorance is that I completely misunderstood the meaning of the word.
You know what I thought it meant? I mistakenly believed it was derived from the phrase acting up— to be uppity was to be "prone to acting up." As in this kind of acting up. That's what I gathered from hearing it used in context.
Until recently, I thought being "uppity" was something everyone should want to be from time to time. It never occurred to me— because I don't often hear the word used in context anymore— that I should look up the word in a dictionary, where I would have learned of its 19th century origin and its correct meaning as a synonym for arrogant or self-important. In fact, now that I know what "uppity" really means, I'm sorta disappointed— because, now I don't have a word to use as an adjective to mean "prone to acting up," and it's a shame that uppity isn't suitable for that.
Somehow, Westmoreland didn't make the mistake I did. He knew full well what the word meant when he used it. I have a hard time believing he didn't know that choosing to call a Black man and his family "uppity" instead of merely "arrogant" or "self-important" would remind everyone who heard him use that word of its 19th century origin and the racially loaded connotations he most surely intended to convey.
I'm going to be so happy if, when this election is over, we have our first Black President. I think that will go a long way toward helping racist troglodytes like Lynn Westmoreland get their heads sorted out. I'm hoping. I really hoping now.