The Tar-Baby is a fictional character in the second of the Uncle Remus stories published in 1881; it is a doll made of tar and turpentine used to entrap Br'er Rabbit. The more that Br'er Rabbit fights the Tar-Baby, the more entangled he becomes. In modern usage, "tar baby" refers to any "sticky situation" that is only aggravated by additional contact.

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Tar-Baby - Racist Interpretation
... Several United States politicians—including presidential candidates John Kerry, John McCain, Michele Bachmann, and Mitt Romney—have been criticized by civil rights leaders, the media, and fellow politicians for using the "tar baby" metaphor ... An article in The New Republic argued that people are "unaware that some consider it to have a second meaning as a slur" and it "is an obscure slur, not even known to be so by a substantial proportion of the population." It continued that, "those who feel that tar baby's status as a slur is patently obvious are judging from the fact that it sounds like a racial slur" ...