September 5th, 2008
03:35 PM ET
11 years ago

Congressman says he didn't know 'uppity' has racial overtones

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="A Georgia congressman told a Capitol Hill newspaper he thought the the Obamas were 'uppity.'"]
(CNN) – Republican Rep. Lynn Westmoreland was unaware a word he used to describe Barack and Michelle Obama on Thursday carries racial overtones, a spokesman for the congressman told CNN.

Westmoreland, who represents Georgia's third district, described the Obamas as "uppity" when asked by reporters in Washington to compare Repubican vice presidential canidate Sarah Palin with the wife of the Democratic presidential candidate.

“Just from what little I’ve seen of her and Mr. Obama, Sen. Obama, they’re a member of an elitist-class individual that thinks that they’re uppity,” Westmoreland said, according to the Capitol Hill Newspaper the Hill.

Westmoreland's spokesman, Brian Robinson, insisted the congressman did not know the word has been used with a racially derogatory intent against African-Americans.

"When describing the Obamas as part of an elite class, Congressman Westmoreland also used a synonym for elitist: uppity. He was using the dictionary definition of the word, which is having 'an inflated self-esteem' or 'snobbish.' He stands by that characterization and thinks it accurately describes the Democratic nominee. He was unaware that the word had racial overtones and he had absolutely no intention of using a word that can be considered offensive," Robinson said.

Tommy Vietor, a spokesman for Obama's campaign, would not comment to CNN, but told The Hill, " “Sounds like Rep. Westmoreland should be careful throwing stones from his candidate’s eight glass houses."

Robinson said it is important to note the Obama campaign did not note the racial overtones of the word in its response.

"Congressman Westmoreland and Senator Obama may not agree on much, but at least they can agree that Congressman Westmoreland was not referring to race," Robinson said.

soundoff (156 Responses)
  1. 78,yr. white 4 Obama /Biden 08/12

    He knew exactly what he was saying /since when do people call others negative names but dont know what the word they used means/he was adding race to his comments.Do you think we believe your lie? Never
    What does ellitist,uppety ,race ,sex or any such comment have to do with having the vision,ambition,judgement to continue your education graduate ,pay off your loans after spending years helping others improve their surroundings and life.

    They could have been drawing high scale wages / they paid for their loans for this education then some shark scumbags come out of NOWHERE and call them elitist and uppity .
    Throw Westmoreland under the bus .

    September 5, 2008 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  2. The Blind Lady of Justice

    All you defenders of this man and his use of the word "UPPITY" use the word if you like.

    Just know that just about 100% of the African Americans, 90% of the Native Americans, 80 % of the Hispanics, 70% of the Asians and 60% of the Caucasians will translate "uppity" into you saying that this Negro that "doesn't know his/her place".

    The people that get called uppity tend to be well educated, proud, progressive, non-status-quo, achievers ... this has always been the case.

    This is also the group of people that those in power are afraid of exactly because they will bring change.

    I'm just so glad that we've reached a point where even the majority of white folks have the common decency to say no to racism and bigotry. This bodes well for a harmonious USA in the future since we won't be a majority white country much longer.

    September 5, 2008 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  3. Sal

    I have lived in the south for 15 years, and I have never known the word "uppity" to be used as a term to denigrated black people. I have only heard the word used to describe uptight, snobbish rich people (usually white). Could someone who claims that any southerner "knows" the term to be racist please explain your comment as to why it IS racist. How is it racist? Everyone just get over yourselves and focus on THE ISSUES of this election and not what some talking head may say or not say about a candidate.

    September 5, 2008 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  4. Sandy

    Some people are just nuts! So Obama's uppity. And according to Charlotte the racist he is defined as having no resume, providing empty promises, nice speeches and dark skin, and she goes on to further defined him as a shrill uppity boy. Wow, how's that for calling it like you see. With comments like these, I can clearly see why the Congressman comments are seen as racially derogatory because that's exactly what they're meant to be.

    He's uppity because he doesn't say yes mas'sir. How high mas'sir. I knows my place ma'am. I ain't nothing but a dumb n-word. Charlotte those days are over, walk into the 21st century. Barack will never be your boy.

    I guess the Charlotte's and Westmorelands of the world figure he's uppity because he's a racist worst nightmare, an educated bi-racial man who debunks one of the biggest lies perpetrated by supremacist. That lie is that skin color determines intelligence.

    September 5, 2008 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  5. Adam .

    I say LAME to anyone trying to defend this hypocrite or any of his cronies, he knew exactly what he was doing, but of course he cant help himself being from the south and all. Uppity is always been a term used by narrow minded corner pocket racists to try to define a successful person with black skin. It must be horrible being so emotionally limited.

    September 5, 2008 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  6. Tom

    This is the natural biproduct of the GOP both celebrating/promoting dumb candidates and misrepresenting the language, in an Orwellian fashion, such as by misusing the meaning of the term "elites" when in fact it is the Republicans who represent the wealthy and corporate interests, i.e., the true elites. Anyone not getting this is playing right into their hands.

    September 5, 2008 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
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