by Chris Stevenson
“Encouraging individuals & Institutions to downplay the role of race and racism in the lives of the public will only impede the ability to respond to the needs of that public.”-Tim Wise, “Colorblind.”
“How can you not hear with ears like that?”–Dr. McCoy, Star Trek 3, “The Search for Spock.”
Let the record show that those who try too hard not to offend anyone, eventually wind up offending someone. Such is the history of the NAACP and such is the way of this new Post-Racial Liberalism that President Obama swears by.
By now most of you have heard of the 45-minute video that was edited for right-wing smear and rush-to-judgement by a conservative prankster-blogger and all-around suburban-commando Andrew Breitbart. It skillfully shows a black female head of the United States Department of Agriculture making what was considered the latest in the recent wave of black-racists attacks from a black activist. It may sound as if I’m making light of this, but Shirley Sherrod lost her job behind it because high placed officials jumped to conclusions at the Breitbart cuts.
Sherrod gave that speech on the 45th anniversary of her father’s funeral. He was murdered in Baker City in the old south and the killers were never caught. The part of the speech she gave that initially caused such outrage has to be listened to in it’s entirety in order to understand how it’s set up: “I was making that commitment to black people and to black people only. But you know God will show you things and he’ll put things in your path so that you’ll realize that the struggle is really about poor people. The first time I was faced with trying to help a white farmer save his farm, he took a long time talking but he was trying to show me that he was superior to me. I know what he was doing, but he had come to me for help. What he didn’t know, while he was talking all that time, trying to show me that he was superior to me, was I was trying to decide just how much help I was going to give him. I was struggling with the fact that so many black people had lost their farmland, and here I was faced with having to help a white person save their land. Sooo… I didn’t give him the full force of what I could do. I did enough, so that he, I assumed that the Department of Agriculture had sent him to me… and he needed to go back and report that I did try to help.
So I took him to a white lawyer that had attended some of the training that we had provided because Chapter 12 bankruptcy had just been enacted for the family farm. So I figured if I take him to one of them, that his own kind would take care of him… well working with him made me see that it was really about those who have vs. those who have not… it made me realize then that I needed to work to help poor people, those who don’t have access.” This is the horrible racist woman of Glenn Beck’s and Bill O’Reilly’s imagination? What this woman did was help this poor white farmer keep his land when even the white lawyer tried to deep six him.
Sherrod it turned out, was speaking of events that took place 24 years ago. Breitbart picked 2 minutes of the lecture, completely ignoring that she went to bat for the white farmer even though it was her job to save black farmers. After the truth was discovered, the White House, USDA, NAACP and some of the right wing talk show hosts were forced to eat some crow and issue an apology. It was the end of the line for those conservatives and Tea Party enthusiasts who finally thought they got the black equivalent of their own miserable selves. Failing to be content with just their “cracker” label Resurrection at the hands of the New Black Panther Party, white men in Brooks Brothers suits sailed into the unknown in search of more black soft-core oppressors, it is to laugh.
Radio and newspaper commentators like the New York Times Maureen Dowd and XM Radio’s Joe Madison note the Obama Administrations habit of relying too much on “smart-aleck white boys” making too much of the decisions regarding race. This above all should signal a drastic change in the Administration. That goes double for Ben Jealous and his UN-Double-A-CP. They of all people should have been aware of sister Sherrod’s history as well as that of her family and husband back in the ’60’s. Julian Bond should have been the one to put him down on that one.
Shirley Sherrod is a powerful voice which was disrespected by a few tireless, paternalistic, panicky, and smart-ass white males who doubtlessly included no African Americans in the decision-making process to oust her, but left the blacks hanging to pick up the pieces. A low-tech lynching that was needless, embarrassing and tragic. Mission accomplished for Breitbart-Simpson though, this stunt came just after Obama was finally able to pass his bill to extend unemployment benefits, and the NAACP ignoring demands from the right to label the New Black Panther Party as racists. Timing is everything for conservatives.
Though the President was said to have apologized to her personally, he must now take drastic proactive measures to make internal changes so this never happens again.
Chris Stevenson is a syndicated columnist, his articles also appear in the Challenger Community News. Follow him on Twitter, Btweetz.com and Facebook, you don’t have to join either. Respond to him on the link below.