View Full Version : Racial Offense Taken When 'Uppity' Rolls Off Certain Tongues

09-18-2008, 12:26 PM
When a white congressional candidate recently referred to a black news reporter as "uppity," he coincidentally joined company with another white politician who, later that day, applied the same description to Sen. Barack and Michelle Obama.

Both of the Georgians claimed ignorance of the racial history of the word "uppity," a derogatory term applied throughout the Jim Crow South to blacks who dared to climb the socioeconomic ladder.

But for contemporary critics of the word, ignorance of the potential offense is little excuse in many cases, particularly for older white Southerners who are most likely steeped in the traditions of the old social order.

"Being from the South, people of an older generation tend to have that phrase at least ringing in the back of their head whenever the term 'uppity' is used," said Susan Tamasi, a specialist in sociolinguistics at Emory University in Atlanta.