This is not the first time we have been accused of being unwitting accomplices to the dissemination of inappropriate commentary regarding our next president.
A letter to the editor last July referred to Barack Obama as a "post turtle." It went on to explain that when you're walking down the road and spot a turtle stranded atop a fence post, you can be rather certain that it didn't get up there all by itself.
It apparently is a Southernism, one that I must have missed during my middle-school years in Virginia. (At Jefferson Davis Junior High School in Hampton, Va., in the early '60s, the racism was not subtle.)
After receiving some criticism for allowing post turtle it into the paper quite near Obama's name, I checked a database of news stories and found the term had been applied with some regularity to the current president, less often to Sarah Palin and fairly often to many other people, none of them black, as far as I could tell.
Checking further, I found that it is meant to convey the view that the person being so labeled wouldn't be where he/she is without help from others but that the meaning can be somewhat meaner, that whoever is being called a post turtle doesn't deserve to be where he/she is.
I learned all of this shortly after a frequent letter writer complained that "post turtle" obviously is a racist term. If I remember our subsequent conversations correctly, I believe he accused us of A. Knowing it was racist and B. Using it anyway.
They say ignorance is no excuse, but actually it can be a darned good one.
I'm not convinced at all that it is a racist reference and I certainly wouldn't have allowed it into the paper if I thought it would offend more than a handful of reasonable readers.
What I conclude from this is that the Obama administration is going to get its fair share of criticism and that we'll need to be on the lookout for letter writers who feel compelled to put a racial spin, obvious or not, on their commentary.