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What comes to mind when you hear the word “professor?” A bookish scholar? A instructor from your college days? The smart dude from Gilligan’s Island ?

The real answer is “none-of-the-above.” I don’t who you’re trying to kid, you implicit racist, but we all know when you use the term professor it’s a code word for “uppity black man.”

Ogletree, founding and executive director of the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice, says he sees the “professor” label as a thinly veiled attack on Obama’s race. Calling Obama “the professor” walks dangerously close to labeling him “uppity,” a term with racial overtones that has surfaced in the political arena before, Ogletree said. Describing his divisive confirmation hearings as a “circus,” Justice Clarence Thomas called the proceedings “a high-tech lynching for uppity blacks who in any way deign to think for themselves, to do for themselves, to have different ideas. . . . ” It is perhaps ironic, then, that Ogletree, who represented Anita Hill when she made harassment allegations against Thomas in 1991, now sees a bit of the “uppity” label being placed on Obama.

“The idea is that he’s not one of us,” Ogletree says of the professor label. “He has these ideas that are left wing, that are socialist, that he’s palling around with terrorists — those were buzzwords, but the reality was they were looking at this president as an African American who was out of place.”

Thomas L. Haskell, a professor emeritus of history at Rice University, agrees that racial bias may be implicit in the attack on Obama’s professorial past.

“For me and a lot of other academic types, we identify with Obama precisely because he is an intellectual,” Haskell says. “But what does that mean to John Q. Public? I don’t know. John Q. Public may be frightened of these people, especially because this particular intellectual is a black.”

With the exception of Justice Thomas, I cannot ever recall hearing a conservative use the term “uppity.” And I can’t even imagine how someone could make the logical inference that “professor” is somehow a dog-whistle for “black man who doesn’t know his place.” How do you make that kind of connection?

Even when I disagree with liberals—which is almost always—I try to understand and appreciate their worldview. But when it comes to issues of race I feel like we’re living in different centuries: For me it’s 2010, while for many progressives, it’s still 1865.

(Via: The Volokh Conspiracy )

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