Still Uppity, After All These Years

I guess  Joseph Lowery and I — along with the people who stood and applauded his remarks at Coretta Scott King’s funeral — just don’t get how black folks are supposed to behave at funerals. (Nevermind how many opportunities there were to learn how to be have at funerals during the civil rights movement.) I guess we’re not supposed to do much more than cry, talk about Jesus, and maybe sing a few spirituals. Unless we can figure out a way to honor the life of someone like Mrs. King without honoring what she stood for, at least not in too timely a context.

People — particularly folks on the right — toss about words like “inappropriate,” and “rude.” Tucker Carlson , in an attempt to take Lowrey to task, called his remarks “bad manners.”


Folks, there’s a old term for what Lowery did. It was common during the time of civil rights movement, particularly in the South.

Lowery was simply being “uppity.”

Taking liberties or assuming airs beyond one’s station; presumptuous: “was getting a little uppity and needed to be slapped down”

None on the right will say it, but their basic complaint is that Lowery was being an “uppity nigra” (to use the somewhat sanitized term). So were the people who stood and applauded. In daring to draw the obvious disharmony between Mrs. King’s values and the policies of the current administration — with the president sitting right behind him — Lowery “for got his place.” So did the people who stood and applauded him.

Remembering your place means you don’t even speak truth in the vicinity of power; let alone speaking truth to power. Certainly not with the bossman right behind you.

Fortunately, Lowery is still being uppity, if his response to Tucker Carlson is any indication.

CARLSON: It’s not hard to hear that [your remarks] and not draw the obvious conclusion that that’s an attack on President Bush, which of course is your right to do, and I think completely fair. But again, it seemed very uncomfortable to say something like that in a funeral with the president right there. It seemed like bad manners.

LOWERY: Well, I don’t think so. I certainly didn’t intend for it to be bad manners. I did intend for it to — to call attention to the fact that Mrs. King spoke truth to power. And here was an opportunity to demonstrate how she spoke truth to power about this war and about all wars.

And I think that, in the context of the faith, out of which the movement grows, we have always opposed war. We’ve always fought poverty. And we base our — our argument on — on the faith, on the fact that Jesus taught us. He identified with the poor. “I was hungry; you didn’t feed me. I was naked; you didn’t clothe me. I was in prison; you didn’t see about me.” He talked about war. He talked about he who lives by the sword.

So I’m comfortable with the fact that I was reflecting on Mrs. King’s tenacity against war, her determination to witness against war and to speak truth to power. [emphasis added]

Some uppity nigras just never learn, and I’m glad of it. I’ll put my money on Lowery against Tasseled Loafer Boy any day of the week.

Via Prometheus6.

About Terrance

Black. Gay. Father. Buddhist. Vegetarian. Liberal.
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16 Responses to Still Uppity, After All These Years

  1. Sam says:

    Well put. I couldn’t disagree more with people who are saying that (to quote one of your commenters), "A funeral, no matter whose funeral it is, is NO PLACE to voice political rhetoric!!" Hogwash. Certainly at the funeral of someone who had no involvement in politics such comments would be inappropriate. But not to talk about such things at Ms. King’s funeral would have been disrespectful to her memory.

    Carping that "this isn’t the time or the place" is mere misdirection, a smoke-and-mirrors means of avoiding discussion of issues that demand to be discussed. For the right wing, it is never the time or the place.

  2. Nio says:

    Sam, I disagree. It was a funeral, not a political rally. A  funeral is not the time, and certainly not the place, regardless of who the it was for.

  3. Sam says:

    Nio, Ms. King spent her life working to bring about political and social change. How could she have been properly eulogized without discussing those subjects? How would it have been respectful of her to ignore her driving passions? How is it inappropriate to urge people to carry on her work in honor of her memory?

  4. Sam says:

    BTW, Terrence, I have to click on "Submit" repeatedly in order to post a comment lately, and sometimes the system won’t accept a comment at all. I don’t know if anyone else is having that problem, but I thought I’d let you know about it.

  5. Terrance says:

    If Americans have reached the point at which we believe there is a wrong time to speak truth to power, and that it’s better to wait for permission to do so, the dream MLK and CSK worked and lived for is dead and buried right along with them.

    And Americans have exactly the government they deserve.

  6. Nio says:

    Speak power to truth. But not at funerals. It’s inappropriate.

  7. keri says:

    Nio – who are you to say it is inappropriate??  The poo-pooing and finger-wagging on this issue reminds me of the grandmother character in Flannery O’Connor’s "A good man is hard to find:" too concerned about surface appearances, and with a very shallow grasp of morality. In fact, SO concerned with tiny nothing-surface-pleasantries as to completely miss the the much bigger issues (of morality, equality, truth and justice) that Coretta Scott King worked for in her life.

    social mores < morality

  8. cmoney says:

    I love your commentary. "Uppity" is exactly what the redneck Republicans were thinking when they criticized the funeral. The funny thing is, they didn’t give a damn about Coretta Scot King when she was alive. Now they want to control how she was eulogized. If anybody is "uppity" it is the white conservative males who don’t know THEIR PLACE. If they think they can tell Black folks how to remember their dead, then they truly don’t know their place. We don’t tell them how to remember Ronald Reagan. Coretta Scott King was our gift to America and we own her memory. They need to back off on how we remember our hero.

  9. Shaula Evans says:

    Terrance, I’m having trouble posting comments lately, too.

    And to echo what I (tried to) post in reponse to your earlier thread, if I die before you do, I’m counting on you to come to my funeral, raise hell, and make me say Amen, too.

  10. Terrance says:

    The commenting problem should be fixed now. I had to disable the "AJAX commenting" that comes with this particular theme.

  11. Melissa says:

    Who are we to say what is "appropriate" or inappropriate?  I don’t hear her children complaining and IMO, they are the only ones who have a right to say ANYTHING about how her funeral went.  Others may not like it and they had every right to CHANGE THE CHANNEL or LEAVE.  Period!  

    T, love your site!  🙂

  12. neilEmac says:

    Hey T, it’s been a while since I responded (my bad) but you’re always at hand in my RSS feed. As you probably know, I was kept quite busy here at home trying to keep the Canadian neocons from winning our recent federal election. Sadly, a huge minority of Canadians got it wrong and Harper’s ‘bizarre’ new government has now taken office.

    I saw the now infamous speech by Rev. Joseph Lowery on our late night CBC news here in Canada last night and almost jumped out of my bed to join the standing ovation he so deservedly received from the mourning crowd gathered there.

    I was especially touched by the looks on Dubya and Laura’s faces siting in behind Rev. Lowery at the dias, I’ve yet to witness a more unwanted couple at a public gathering.  Jimmy Carter pulled off a few good digs regarding the secret wire-tapping and surveilance of the Kings’ movements; and once again we could see Dubya and spouse squirm in their seats behind the daring ex-President. Cudos to Jimmy, too.

    Thanks for the link to the video clip of Rev. Lowery’s appearance on TC’s show. As usual, to know the truth about what’s happening south of the border, I  turn to you, T. Namasté
    neil E mac

  13. Tim Who? says:

    When Mother Teresa died they talked about continuing her work and not letting the dream die.

    When ML King died they talked about continuing his work and not letting his dream die.

    When JF Kennedy died they talked about continuing his work and not letting his dream die.

    When Bobby Kennedy died they talked about continuing his work and not letting his dream die.

    I see no reason not to do the same for Ms King

    Ms King’s life WAS a political rally, turning her death into a political rally is not only appropriate, but was, without a doubt, exactly what she would have wanted!

  14. savvy101 says:

    Thank God for the uppity negras. 

  15. Ms. Romi Elnagar says:

    After the way Bush vacationed while Corretta Scott King’s people DROWNED in New Orleans during Katrina, I thought it was very gracious of her family to even let Bush INSIDE THE CHURCH for her funeral.
    Martin Luther King and his wife spent years fighting the insane oppression of blacks in this country.  Every word that Lowery said was "right on," and it is sad that the only time you can get Bush to listen to the truth is at a funeral.  Of course, if the Patriot Act renewal passes, you may not even be able to do that.

  16. PhoenixRising says:

    Oh, T, I had the funiiest conversation with my lovely wife on this. Here’s the transcript:

    me: Why are they saying nobody should tell the truth and shame the devil at a funeral? These hypocrites are trying to say that preacher is uppity, only they don’t know the word.

    Her: What the hell is ‘uppity’?

    me: Honey, I have no idea, but it’s what they’re trying to say.

    At my elementary school ‘uppity’ was a popular insult used to imply that the individual being insulted was not acting black enough. Guess the term ‘oreo’ really increased our collective vocabulary. I think that many of my peers had heard their elders describing someone who was more active in the movement than themselves as ‘uppity’ and had misinterpreted.

    It’s a great word, so evocative.

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