Okay folks, what the hell was John Kerry thinking using the term tar baby? It is just as racialized, and just as negative as the word nigger. It has no place in our discourse and his usage of this term has been ignored. I don't care what his intent was, when those words fell from his lips without any thought, what he did was reduce black people to descriptors of negativity.
Many people believe that as long as they avoid the word nigger they are not using hateful racist language towards blacks and that is simply not the case. Due to the ingenuity of humanity we actually have a myriad of words that confer the message that some people are less than simply based on the colour of their skin. What we need to do is be hypervigilant in our choice of language to ensure that our everyday conversations do not reinforce the idea that it is acceptable to other for the sake of convenience. A white man using the term tar baby is racist period. Kerry is an educated man, and as such I am not convinced that he suffers from an inability to use metaphors that are not based in race. There are no free passes, and Kerry in this case is guilty of using racist terminology.
What I find particularly telling is that when Jesse Jackson said nigger it created a virtual media storm, yet when a white man uses the term tar baby which is equally as damaging to blacks there is silence and zero criticism. Why are we to assume that his intent was not to harm, and Jesses was malignant internalized hatred, or that it was overtly hypocritical in nature. This is a perfect example of white privilege working to discipline bodies of colour while at the same time assigning themselves a false ally status. Words come with a specific history and meaning, and this must be recognized if we are to decolonize language. As long as terminology like tar baby can be used without criticism, blacks will continue to occupy the bottom of the racial hierarchy pyramid.