That is how I described a situation to my mid-20s daughter. She didn't understand the term. Huh?
I had to stop and explain it. How if you touch something, you can sometimes never get unstuck and you become tied down, unable to freely carry on. The entanglement, bound up as tar will cling and not let go (ever sat on a tar-blotched beach? I did, in Corpus Christi -- ruined the beach towels). It is a nasty thing... to go there.
Tar Baby. It was not used in any pejorative, racial or other manner. Just a way to describe that any engagement with a situation leads to an unpleasant obliged relationship of a no-win set-up. The tar baby image I conjure is a black bush-like blob, nothing like the image I tracked down, which might make it seem racist and with a personification of the tar baby. My thoughts take me back to the idea of Brer Rabbit.
Some things are better left well-enough alone. That's the idea. Gee. Do I date myself that much?