Damn Right! The Obama’s Are Uppity Negroes

Well, I just got word of this.

First of all, yes, uppity is a racial term and for U.S. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland from rural Coweta County in Georgia and I really don’t buy the argument that he’s never heard it as such.  The man was born in 1950 in Atlanta, Georgia.  I’m quite sure that he heard more than once that uppity was a word used to describe blacks, well, Negroes who whites felt were trying to move above their current caste status.

Well, let the record show that since this space is about all things Uppity and where they intersect with things Negro therefore forming a Network.

Westmoreland was recorded by The Hill a Capitol Hill newspaper that is known for covering the more mundane aspects of the Hill, but clearly this was no longer a mundane news story:

Westmoreland was discussing vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin’s speech with reporters outside the House chamber and was asked to compare her with Michelle Obama.

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.

Asked to clarify that he used the word “uppity,” Westmoreland said, “Uppity, yeah.”

I mean damn.

But guess what, at least white folk still know what uppity is.

Real talk though, if a white person is calling a black person uppity then that means simply that the black person is doing their job.  As I’ve said more times than once that an uppity Negro  is the one that challenges the status quo.  I’m always striving to maintain my uppity status, but trying to not be elitist.  Elistism puts you in the snob category (not against you or anything Black Snob), but elitism is when you look down on someone else, being uppity requires you to turn around and help those who are in a lower social status and moreover the ones who don’t have the same opportunities that have been afforded that you have been.

Being labeled an uppity Negro, trust me, is a compliment.  Although it really comes off as hatin’, this is definitely a “negative” that we as blacks should embrace as a positive, not “nigger” and interpret it as “nigga.”  Of course the old Kat Williams adage about needin’ more hatas connotes that one is doing the right thing.

I could go on with a list of Negroes that were labeled uppity over the years, starting with Rev. Martin Luther King, Ph.D.  and go down the list going back all the way till the late 18th century and ending with Sen. Barack Obama and I don’t think it would make much of a difference, so I’m going to do something different.

For those reading this, could you give a personal experience about yourself or a family member deceased or living where you possibly had been labeled an uppity Negro or perhaps had called someone uppity.  Also, what do you think about Westmoreland’s comments?  Do you accept the reason he gave for saying what he said, moreover the fact that he offered an apology.

Don’t forget to check out my other article

Keep it uppity and keep it truthfully radical, JLL

33 thoughts on “Damn Right! The Obama’s Are Uppity Negroes

  1. Welp…you know my background pretty well, thus I’ve got quite a few examples.lol.
    So shall you be calling his office to complain a la my brother? LOL good post!

  2. J have been called uppity by white folks because I am informed. I don’t debate with them at work for fear of termination. M<y relatives call me uppity because I quote the law, bust hypocrisy when i see it, and because I refuse to let my kids watch cable. Call me uppity. I like it.

  3. Yeah well…black woman, ordained, Ph. D. in Bible, what was the question? OH RIGHT–hell YEAH I’m uppity! That would be Rev. Dr. B****, baby.

    I SO was hoping you’d have gotten this memo.


    Dr. A.

  4. FYI in the 1970s, White feminists wore buttons that said “Uppity Women Unite.” We meant it (for ourselves) in exactly the same way you are talking about here and for the same reason you call yourself uppity. But that is not how Westmoreland was using the term.

    I don’t know how White feminists picked up the term uppity, but I can only assume it was picked up from Blacks. By the 1970s, many Black people were using the term to describe themselves. It was obvious that the term came from racial oppression (“I’m going to put that uppity N- in his place”) and that using it for oneself was an act of resistance. In those days, lots of White feminists identified positively with the Black movement, and many had been in the civil rights movement.

  5. If uppity really is a racially tied word, isn’t it repetitive to say “uppity negro”?

    It must not be too obvious that it’s a racial slur if you have to use the word negro after uppity to describe the person’s color.

  6. @Jon

    Trust me it’s obvious.

    Everytime the word “uppity” was used it was used in tandem with “nigger” or its southern dialectical cousin “nigra” and the two were joined at the hip. The fact that Westmoreland chose to repeat himself and the fact that he represents a rural Georgia town in a rural county that I actually had worked in during a semester of school where there are still Confederate flags seen flying from pickup trucks and houses and towns named after Confederate war heroes is a friggin insult.

    I’m simply suggesting that every black person who’s been labeled that should embrace it and move the hell on.

    Clearly Obama’s running for president and he’s going back to a Georgia town no one’s ever heard of.

  7. If comments like “Oh but you’re different, you speak so well, you’re able to express yourself” qualifies as another way of saying “uppity” then He** yeah! Been labeled “uppity” most of my life and PROUD OF IT! Oh and by the way YES he knew exactly what he was saying. Just another example of trying to play the masses cheap!

  8. You crack me up. Yes, as one Uppity Negro, I recognize my own kind.

    Like you, I don’t believe any grown-ass WHITE MAN, born and bred in the South, doesn’t know what UPPITY means.

  9. What I love about this election is that it’s bringing out the hate for everyone to see. When a black man is not bucking his eyes and shuffling his feet he is called uppity. When a black man is running for office and has to campaign around poor – middle class white folks he is called an elitist. Like one of my friends said yesterday “it’s hard being black in america” – but we gonna work it out…

  10. Uppity is what we do!

    It is radical to be uppity. Even when we have to work twice and hard to get half as far–we still rise…

    Uppity is a gift that we receive with much appreciation. In our acceptance of the gift, we share the uppityness with others because uppity is an achievable destination.

    Good post, Uppity!

  11. First time at this blog, and I love it…When I worked as a manager of a public housing agency and the grantwriter for them, the black women called me gay because– I was told later– I was smart and dressed real nice. The whites called me “uppity”– I was told later– because I “stuck my nose where it didn’t belong.” Although I felt the gay label was funny, I actually was proud of the uppity label. It confirmed what I already believed– that I did my job very well, didn’t back down and spoke the truth.

    Check me out over at daddyBstrong.blospot.com. I got you linked!

  12. you guys sound fucking stupid. the term “uppity negro” means: yes you are rising above your fellow niggers but don’t forget, no matter what you do, you will always be a nigger to white america. if you sincerely see that as a compliment you are not only uppity but also an elitist and a fucking sell out. if they call you uppity how the fuck do you think they feel about your brother or sister with no diploma? a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. its hard to see an end to white ownership but while you are in america reaping the benefits don’t allow yourselves to indirectly be disrespected by being spoke to in a condescending way. seriously you guys sound so happy to claim the term uppity because it divides you from other black people lol. smh. sad.

  13. It’s annoying. Just because a Black person aspires to do and be better in life…we’re labeled “Uppity” as if it’s something to be embarrassed about. How dare you NOT be “stereotypically BLACK?” Be the change and re-define for the better. Embrace it! UPPITY NEGROS UNITE!

  14. Your mileage may vary, but growing up in New York I haven’t heard the word uppity in a racial context. In New York City schools, at least in the 90s, kids who got good grades or were well-spoken were accused of “acting white,” but the only time I’ve heard uppity in a racial context was from a Puerto Rican guy talking about Robinson Cano’s first name.

    To be completely honest, in high school our valedictorian was called Carlton Banks by 95% of the school, because he was short, black, obsessed with success and constantly in a good mood. But I gotta admit I thought it was funny as shit, especially when kids broke out with Carlton’s Tom Jones dance in the middle of class.

  15. First time to your blog….and I’m loving this!

    I’ve never had whites call me “uppity” to my face. I have had blacks call me “uppity,” though. It goes back to that old saying: “If you don’t have enemies, you’re doing something wrong.”

    Do you have cards, by any chance? I’d love to be able to hand one out saying I’m a member of the Uppity Negro Network. 🙂

  16. @LBell

    Sorry, I’m just a strugglin grad school student trying to make ends meet.

    But I could imagine being at a mixer and handing out a card to someone letting them know I’m a member of “The Network.” lol

  17. Well I have never been literally called uppity, people have said other things that imply that they think I am. Well Ill continue to do me, state my opinions and Keep it real Uppity!

    Great Post! and lol at uppity is the new nigga.

  18. @Plan

    I’ve never been called “uppity” by a white person. I’d be hard pressed to wonder if your average run-of-the-mill liberal white person even understood the connotation behind “uppity” attached to “Negro.” I worked at an all white organization this summer in Montgomery County, MD and it was mostly with high schoolers and we went on a missions trip to Philly and one of the skits involved one of the counselors to dress up as an old man. The guy’s name was Tom and he called himself “old Uncle Tom” and my kids were 100% oblivious to the history behind that, let alone the counselors.

    Although one of the lil’ guys made me double over with laughter because he could do the Carlton Banks dance with perfection! LOL

  19. Thinking about it, whether used racially or not, the term uppity ALWAYS is used to refer to someone who is acting more elite or educated or wealthy than they ought to based on their background or current status.

  20. Well, an hour after I wrote the previous comment, the Black grad student I was giving a ride to (a Southern woman) referred to her fiance as uppity. I asked her what she meant. She said he won’t take jobs that he thinks are beneath him.

  21. I’m white, so no direct experience to report. But I write about racial violence in Southwest Mississippi in the 50s and 60s and have interviewed a number of family members of murder victims. When I heard the Westmoreland comment, I thought immediately of my interview with four of the children of Samuel O’Quinn, an Black man who was murdered by a sniper at the gate to his own home, in Centreville, MS in 1959.

    Mr. O’Quinn was not targeted for known involvement in civil rights activity; though the murderer is not known and the motive is not definite, the O’Quinn children (all in their 70s and 80s) talked quite a bit about how their father and others in the family were viewed as “uppity” and “biggity.”

    I wrote it up in a blog post over at my place.

  22. I gotta admit I never thought of the word “uppity” as racist. I am white, grew up in small town southern US and we used the term for rich, snobbish people in town. When we were kids we used to always call each other “cotton-picker” never realizing the racist overtones. It wasn’t until much later in life I found out it was racist, and it makes sense that it can be percieved that way.
    My point is please don’t always think something a white person says in inherently racist. We (or at least I) don’t always realize a word has a racist meaning, and I would appreciate a little consideration in just calmly explaining the potential for offense if I should speak out of step.

  23. @brian

    I’d encourage to read some of my previous posts and you’d see how I delineate between racist and prejudiced. I’m very slow to call a white person racist. Which is why I think the claim of reverse racism is the biggest myth ever.

    What I am more inclined to do, given I’m not just blown over by the stupidity of a situation is say that a white person is speaking out of white privilege which is often times understood as white cultural ignorance.

    Even in this post I didn’t say Westmoreland was either.

    However in THIS case with Westmoreland, only because of his social context of being in rural Georgia in a district in which I traveled to twice a week for half a year in 2006, i’d be more inclined to say this was racist comment–solidified with the fact that he repeated himself.

  24. I would actually wait and see with Westmoreland. If he does not use the term again, it might be that he truely didn’t realize. While I grew up in a small, rural southern town and didn’t realize it, my wife grew up in a large metro area and she also didn’t realize it either. And I am not quite as old as he is (born ’66), so maybe I didn’t see it used it the context in which he might have.
    I agree with your attitude about the white cultural ignorance. There is alot of cultural ignorance everywhere. What I try and do is just be people. Regardless of our color, background, etc. we are all just people.
    I found your blog looking up the word to see its objectionable context. Your blog is interesting as a friendly light-hearted look at a perspective I don’t know. I will keep reading it.

  25. Words do take on a life of their own outside their origins. I was in my 40s before I learned that “gypsy” is a racial slur on the Roma people.

    I got curious about whether there was an older meaning of uppity that preceded its racial use. So I went to the OED. The answer is no: its origins are all racial and it always refers to someone putting on airs above his/her station. There is an older English word “uppish” that mostly meant high spirited or drunk that took on a secondary meaning of presumptuousness or putting on airs attested from 1789 on. And there are attestations to “uppity” being used in clearly non-racial contexts, but always to refer to people trying to be above their proper levels.

    Here’s what I got from the OED:

    uppity, a.
    colloq. (orig. and chiefly U.S.).

    Above oneself, self-important, ‘jumped-up’; arrogant, haughty, pert, putting on airs. Cf. UPPISH a. 2d. a. attrib.
    1880 J. C. HARRIS Uncle Remus 86 Hit wuz wunner deze yer uppity little Jack Sparrers, I speck. 1933 Times Lit. Suppl. 9 Nov. 776/2 Grammy is living contentedly enough with an ‘uppity’ young creature named Penny. 1952 F. L. ALLEN Big Change II. viii. 130 The effect of the automobile revolution was especially noticeable in the South, where one began to hear whites complaining about ‘uppity niggers’ on the highways, where there was no Jim Crow. 1982 B. CHATWIN On Black Hill v. 28 He had a head for figures and a method for dealing with ‘uppity’ tenants.

    b. pred.
    1932 Sun (Baltimore) 23 Aug. 6/2 [She] could have plenty o’ friends. The trouble with her is she thinks folks too common to bother with unless they’re too uppity to bother with her. 1947 ‘N. SHUTE’ Chequer Board 68 They’ve been here alone too long, and they’ve got uppity. 1955 F. O’CONNOR Wise Blood v. 89, I reckon you ain’t as uppity as you was last night. 1966 D. BAGLEY Wyatt’s Hurricane i. 27 The Navy is trying to build up Cap Sarrat as a substitute for Guantanamo in case Castro gets uppity and takes it from them. 1973 P. WHITE Eye of Storm viii. 381, I came prepared to rough it… It’s Dorothy who grows uppity if all the cons aren’t mod.

    Hence {sm}uppitiness, the quality of being ‘uppity’; an instance of this.
    1935 H. L. DAVIS Honey in Horn x. 145 Clay’s bravery and uppitiness had done nothing. 1966 Listener 27 Oct. 622/1 She had decided that Joyce was ‘pretentious’ and ‘under-bred’… But who was Virginia Woolf to talk (in this purely literary sense) of ‘uppitiness’? 1975 Ibid. 9 Oct. 479/1 Few delegates seemed versed in Private Eye nomenclature and would, anyway, disapprove of such uppityness. 1982 R. BARNARD Death & Princess ii. 17 Joe may appreciate my couthness..but he can sniff out uppitiness.

  26. @brian and olderwoman

    Sometimes we use terms and have blinded ourselves to the meaning behind them–on purpose.

    In Chicago, the old Maxwell street area was commonly refered to as Jewtown. As a kid, I didn’t even associate ethnicity with it, but as I got older, I realised myself that it was a hawt mess.

    The other is “Jew someone down on a price” and the same connotation is there.

    Also, I don’t hear this one much anymore, but labeling someone an “Indian giver” meaning that they took back what was once in their possession. That above all is the biggest insult because as we all know it was the indigenous peoples of this continent to whom land was cheated away from them by the most devious of practices.

    Many people don’t think twice about the vocabulary they use to get their point across, particularly the ones that carry such weight to them.

  27. (olderwoman, thanks for the ‘uppity’ OED usage history)

    It is interesting to consider that we so often choose to use coded words to convey unspoken societal biases…Is it honest to do so?

    Thanks Uppity for providing an uppityness forum to those who are willing to unpack and examine the excess baggage and somewhat misbegotten mindsets of cultural cliches.

    Keep on keeping it uppity!

  28. How has your “Upitty” president obama worked out fo you?
    Better than the rest of America I hope.

    He has alienated the muslim states, terminated our oil drilling and sold the rights to the chinese. everythng possible to cut our oil supply to 0. The price of oil is going uprapidly and no relief in sight. The coldest winter in 100 years (listening “Upitty” al gore, you’d ting it was just global warming). Many of the less “Upitty” are going to freese. What are you “Uppity” college genius’s sgoing to do for them?:):):)

  29. I am not a black person.
    I am white.
    My immmigrant Irish parents knew oppression first hand from the Brits, otherwise known as the Black and Tans, who were more than delighted to kick then in the nuts and to send all Catholic Irish back to the stone age.
    My Irish parents emmigrated to USA in their early 20’s during our country’s early 20’s for among many reasons to escape the oppression of the British
    They were the uppity Irish
    So when “uppity niggers” in our country tell the establishment to go fuck themselves: I could not agree more.

    This is the country of the people; by the people and for the people
    ERGO this my friends =

    To all the uppity negroes out there let it be known that you will stand shoulder to shoulder with a very uppity white Irish American
    This is the country of the free and the home of the fucking brave
    Do NOT relinquish your rights to be heard.
    Tell Mitt “FUCKING” Romney = go bite my ass.
    Please vote and get your friends to vote.
    We need a man of leadership for our country
    Ike, Roosevelt, Trumuan, Kennedy are no longer here.
    Mr Obama you have have my vote and I can only wish that other Americans of reason will support your efforts.

    Doctom of Winston Salem and High Point, north carolina.
    After this post i can only imagine what shit is going to come my way, but then you gotta do what you gotta do.

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