This is weird...I don't know what this post will look like (the margin is in the middle of the page)
Anyway...Mitt Romney "had to" apologize for using the "racial" term "tar baby" and now John Kerry has used it to describe tactics of John McCain. So...racial term or not?
Only because we have made it so.
It started out not:
Tar-Baby was a doll made of tar and turpentine, used to entrap Br'er Rabbit in the second of the Uncle Remus stories. The more that Br'er Rabbit fought the Tar-Baby, the more entangled he became. In contemporary usage, "tar baby" refers to any "sticky situation" that is only aggravated by additional contact. The only way to solve such a situation is by separation.
mmm, yeah but there is racial connotation if not definition. Those Uncle Remus stories cannot be separated from their racial context.
There are many things in African literature that are welcomed and remembered by the African community, no matter what the nation of birth is.
Frankly, I think that we live in a world where a lot of people can benefit from a thicker skin.
For heaven's sake - last week I read an article about folks being upset about referencing a "black hole"!
I was accused of racism by a student for using the term "like the pot calling the kettle black".
There are many parts of the language that we need to reclaim. I cannot think of a term other than "tar baby" to convey that meaning. I recently took a course on "Multicultural Children's Literature" and a pretty large segment was spent on African "trickster tales" and the "tar baby" figures into those. Using a "tar baby" was a sign of intelligence and being good that those "tricks".
This younger generation is the most spoiled generation the United States has ever raised. They should be taught that not everything should have a racial connotation. This should be part of it.
You might be interested in this somewhat related conversation.
IN reference to the "N" word, that never had a positive meaning...it was always negative so it's not quite the same.
If you listen to a few of the black comedians, I think the meanings conveyed are somewhat akin to "white trash" vs. "Caucasian".
As far as the Barbara Walters question...she asked the wrong question. She should not have asked why it was not okay for other races to use the term, but rather, if it is offensive - why do YOU use it?
I recognize the "shared experience" feeling...but all of us can go around looking for reasons to be offended. The "N" word is understandable.
"tar baby" (since it's a manikin made out of TAR) should not be.
(from wiki) In an interview, Toni Morrison said the following of its use in her book, in an acting of reclaiming: "Tar Baby is also a name, like 'nigger,' that white people call black children, black girls, as I recall…. At one time, a tar pit was a holy place, at least an important place, because tar was used to build things…. It held together things like Moses' little boat and the pyramids. For me, the tar baby came to mean the black woman who can hold things together." ("An Interview" 255) 
I only linked to that other conversation, because it was tangentially related and, IMO, interesting. Especially, the comments which talked about not wanting to offend a fellow Christian. I hope you didn't think that I was implying that you were equating the two.
I hear what you're saying - but having read some of those stories, I can see how closely the racial overtones are woven into the narratives and I can see how someone would, perhaps wrongly, take offense. Be they positive or negative, there are racial connotations to that expression (as acknowledged by Toni Morrison in your wiki reference). I'm not saying those connotations are negative, but that they are there - they exist. And sometimes it seems like context and connotation take on importance that is greater than or equal to the original definition. I like the stories, BTW. If anyone is interested, they can be read here :
Yes, I do agree that there are a lot of instances in which people seem to choose to be offended. Clearly some of it comes from people just looking for a fight. I wonder, though, if SOME of that doesn't come from having to guess at people's motives.
That is I was not equating the two. 🙂