Obama Called "Buckwheat" by Lone Republican in District 17 Race

Corey Poitier, the lone Republican in the race to replace Congressman Kendrick Meek in District 17, has a message for President Barack Obama: "Listen up, Buckwheat."

Poitier, a teacher at North Miami Beach Senior High who is also African-American, made the comments at a Broward County Republicans meeting while giving a speech against health-care reform.

Buckwheat was the name of an African-American cast member on the Little Rascals or Our Gang movie shorts. While some people say the shorts were the first in Hollywood history to portray black and whites as equals, others say Buckwheat and other African-American cast members were based on stereotypes and often not shown as smart as the others. Buckwheat was known for his catch phrase, "Otay," and unkempt Afro.

"I wasn't meaning him any harm. Maybe it was a little insensitive," Poitier tells WPLG. "It's a term that my brother and I use. It was kind of a way of saying 'dummy,' like when I say to my brother, 'Hey, Buckwheat, cut that out.' That's what it was."

In 2007, Carla Dartez, a Louisiana state representative, called one of her campaign workers Buckwheat. The local chapter of the NAACP protested by throwing their support to her Republican challenger.

"Buckwheat" has also been used by African-Americans to parody racial stereotypes, most recently in a satirical piece on TheRoot.com.

Says Poitier: "I believe that we have become so racially sensitive that anything can be set off."

The majority of voters in District 17 are African-American, and Obama received 87 percent of the vote in 2008.