SNOW: Having said that, I don’t want to hug the tar baby of trying to comment on the program, the alleged program, the existence of which I can neither confirm nor deny.
QUESTION: What are your personal goals? What do you hope to achieve here? Will you continue to televise these briefings? And would you put into English the phrase (OFF-MIKE) the tarbaby?
SNOW: Well, I believe hug the tarbaby, we could trace that back to American lore.
Oh yeah. We can “trace it back to American lore.” Right back to some old stereotypes. Given the conservative nostalgia for “the good old days” (good for whom, nobody ever says) it shouldn’t
And as an African American born and raised in the South, I’ve been called a “tar baby” once or twice in my life. A high school acquaintance called me that as a nickname, until I enlightened her on how not funny it was. It wasn’t funny, innocent or harmless then, and the use of the phrase isn’t any of those things now either.
I learned to watch carefully what some white people say when it comes to race, and to figure out really quickly just where they stood on the subject by what they said. The challenge was that amongst themselves some white folks talked very differently than they would if a black person was around. A “tar baby” baby reference would tell me just about all I needed to know about where I stood with the person who used it, and what — in their heart of hearts — they thought of people like me, but I’d never be likely to hear it because what’s said depends on whose in the room.
Snow must have forgotten that in that setting all of America — black and white — is “in the room.” The only other assumption I can make is that he knew that and used the phrase (consciously or not) to reach a particular demographic of Americans “in the room,” if you know what I mean. Black folks aren’t the only people who know what’s implied behind that reference. Some white folks will recognize it too, and upon hearing it will recognize one of their own.
Consciously or not, that was probably the whole point, if you know what I mean.