The Mirror

If Ted Cruz Was Black, Would The New Yorker Call Him ‘Uppity?’ (UPDATE)

Betsy Rothstein Gossip blogger
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The New Yorker used an interesting turn of phrase this week to describe Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who announced his candidacy for president Monday at the evangelical Liberty University.

“The conventional wisdom is that Cruz hasn’t got a chance, and, as far as the Presidency goes, it’s probably accurate. To many Americans, he is the uppity loudmouth who, in the fall of 2013, less than a year into his first term as a senator, helped bring the federal government to a halt.” 

We’re cool with calling ethnic minorities “uppity” again? When did I miss that memo?

As I’ve reported in The Mirror, even coming within 10,000 miles of the word “uppity” — for instance, use of the word “angry” — can bring on accusations that a writer really means “uppity” from WaPo race activist Wesley Lowery. In other words, the crazy idea is that I can’t attribute any emotion that even comes close to anger when describing Wesley, or else it’s racist.

As explained in a story in The Wire from 2011yes, “uppity” is racist. The author cites bombastic conservative radio personality Rush Limbaugh for using the u-word to describe first lady Michelle Obama. He said Obama was booed at a Nascar race for showing “uppity-ism.” At the time, Newsbusters defended use of the word, as did Glenn Beck, who argued that the word simply means “snotty” or “snobby.”

Beck is technically right.

The word is synonymous with arrogant, snobbish, hoity-toity, and pompous or, according to Merriam Webster, “acting as if you are more important than you really are.” At least part of definition could apply to a guy like Lowery. But to use that word to describe a black person, considering its history, would be wrong. Lowery is a mix of black and white. Even under those circumstances, the word choice would be inappropriate. The jury’s still out on whether it’s fitting to use it to describe a Hispanic like Cruz.

TheWire story explains that “uppity” was a word “racist southerners used for black people who didn’t know their place.”

Rafael Edward “Ted” Cruz is considered to be Hispanic or Cuban American. He grew up in Calgary, Alberta, Canada but was largely raised in Texas. His father is from Cuba. His mother is from Delaware. Until 2013, he had dual citizenship in Canada and the U.S. but has since given up his Canadian citizenship.

UPDATE: John Cassidy, the author The New Yorker piece, has since updated his story and offered an apology for using the word “uppity” to describe a Latino.  The changed sentence now just calls Cruz a “loudmouth” minus the word “uppity.”

“To many Americans, he is the loudmouth who, in the fall of 2013, less than a year into his first term as a senator, helped bring the federal government to a halt.”

Update: In describing Senator Cruz’s aggressive actions during his first year in the Senate, I originally used the word “uppity,” which means, according to Webster’s, “acting as if you are more important than you really are, do not have to do what you are told to do, etc.” However, the word also has some disturbing historical connotations that I overlooked, and in applying it to a Latino politician, I goofed. If I gave any offense, however inadvertently, I am sorry.