Libby Copeland's use of the name "Barry" when referring to Obama, as well as the use of that name by virulent anti-Obama Democrats, got me thinking: Why do Barack-haters keep calling him 'Barry' in such a derisive way? It seems to be a phenomenon mainly among his so-called "liberal" detractors. What's behind it?
We read that his family and friends, including his wife, call him "Barry" at home. We also know that he was called "Barry" growing up, and that at some point he began using his formal name: Barack.
Why did he make that change? One reason may have been that he preferred a more adult, dignified name. I was called "Ricky" growing up, and decided at around age 12 or 13 that I preferred to be called "Richard." My family still calls me "Rick," as do a few old New York friends, and I often wish I'd stuck with that.
But it's more than that with Obama. "Barack" is, of course, an African name, Arabic in origin, and it means "blessing." (That's why he's been able to joke with Jewish supporters that he's "Baruch" Obama: same Semitic language roots.) It is a name with great dignity, one that grounds Obama in one of his ancestral lands.
It's also the name of his late father.
So why do these Obama-haters call him Barry? They probably tell themselves it's to mock him for the "pretension" of changing his name, or that it's to illustrate that he's a phony who calls himself one thing in public and another in private. But here's what they're really doing:
They're belittling him. They're taking away his dignity as an African American, and severing his link with his father and his father's land. They're also robbing him of a right that African Americans fought for in this country: the right to choose his own name. They're infantilizing him, and making it appear as if his pride in his origins is pretentious ... dare I say, uppity?
Do they think what they're doing is racist? I'm sure they don't. Is it? If not, it's certainly in the parking space right next to racism. They may not realize it. If so, somebody ought to tell them. Because they really should stop.