Thursday, July 22, 2010

What the Shirley Sherrod Saga Says About America

Shame on conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart. Shame on USDA head Tom Vilsack. Shame on the NAACP. And shame on the Obama administration. Shame on all of them for their astonishing rush to judgement earlier this week in the Shirley Sherrod case. What happened to Sherrod is an embarrassing reminder of the racial dysfunction in America today and how politics continues to play a critical role in this ugliness.

Sherrod was summarily dismissed of her Department of Agriculture job Monday after Breitbart released an incriminating, edited tape of her speaking before a small NAACP audience in March in which she admitted 24 years ago to helping a white farmer less than she could have because he had acted "superior" to her. But in this same speech she shared her moment of redemption and the lesson she learned about race:

"That's when it was revealed to me that the job is about poor, versus those who have. And not so much about white — it is about white and black, but it's not — you know, it opened my eyes."

But the full tape was not released by Breitbart, only select clips which reinforced claims that Sherrod was a racist. The disingenuous blogger admitted to Fox TV host Sean Hannity that he was seeking retribution against the NAACP for its resolution last week condemning as racist certain elements of the conservative-fueled Tea Party.

So what happened next? The NAACP publicly condemned Sherrod; USDA officials, claiming to be acting on behalf of Vilsack and the administration, forced Sherrod to quickly resign; and Obama himself supported her firing and, as NAACP head Ben Jealous said about his own organization, was "snookered" by right wing zealots. What's truly incredible here is the speed in which they all demonized Sherrod without proper investigation and analysis of the full story, and without giving her the opportunity she pleaded for to defend herself. It was a swift, merciless racial witch hunt.

To be sure, the Washington landscape has gotten so contentious, malicious and partisan that calculating, irresponsible right wing rabble-rousers like Breitbart are race-baiting to score political points in their rapacious quest for power. In the process, they serve to anger and divide the races. Turn white against black, and vice versa. And they make Obama so overly sensitive to issues of race that he makes boneheaded decisions like hurriedly hopping on the bash-Sherrod bandwagon in a move clearly aimed at placating a bunch of blathering, inciting wingnuts. When is all this racial posturing going to stop?

Sometimes it takes a tragedy or travesty of justice to serve as the catalyst for change; a wake-up call to those in power. Let's hope the rush to villify Sherrod, and the humiliating public relations shitstorm that followed, is a lesson learned for the media and politicians to take a deep collective breath and do their due diligence before shamefully playing into the duplicitous hands of the partisan and racist operatives who seek nothing but turmoil and division in our nation. Next time, before they trip over each other to hang someone out to dry, perhaps they'll ask a few questions first.

A footnote to this story: on Wednesday the USDA reinstated Sherrod, and Vilsack issued a sincere, heartfelt apology to her. It is likely that Obama himself will reach out now and apologize as well. But when it comes to race relations in America today, I'm not so sure that all's well that ends well.


Anonymous said...

How about shame on Fox News? I know you work for them Andy, but 'cmon. THEY'RE the one's who took the story and ran with it. Yes, everyone took the bait, but Fox is truly and evil organization. Period. I actually think you should think twice about continuing to work for the propaganda arm of the extreme right wing.


VennData said...

I've got absolutely zero problem with Obama and Vilsack. They were presented with with an obviously outrageous act and had to act quickly.

The problem is the with GOP right wing media machine who constantly fabricates this nonsense out of whole cloth and re-enforce people'e emotions with their constant lying.

That's what the right wing does. They make it up.

Anonymous said...

There is a subtext that is constantly running here that is not really given enough attention.

And that is that when you play with fire, you get burned.

The Democrats have been playing racial politics for so long that it's catching up with them. Makes sense - you can only get away with stuff for so long.

Was the NAACP "snookered" when they invited Louis Farrahkahn to speak? Or when they hired Benjamin Chavis - a man who threw a firebomb with the hopes of shooting the responding uniformed public safety officers?

Did the Democratic Party do itself justice when they embraced Al Sharpton, he of Tawana Brawley and Freddy's Fashion Mart fame? The cream of the Democratic Party stood on a presidential debate stage treating him as a peer.

You play with fire, you get burned.

For too long the Democrats have practiced the art of identity politics. How could it not backfire from time to time?

Realist said...

Can you now see that blindly backing Obama once he had demonstrated his true loyalty is not good for this country? The American Weimar Republic has just about had its run. The American Hitler is on his way to claim his nuclear-armed legacy - and the American people still think they are free.

Shirley Sherrod might as well have been lynched on Pennsylvania Avenue by the Oval Office. What better way could the Obamanites demonstrate their fealty to right-wing fascism? We needed someone who would stand up to the Republicans and their financial backers. We wanted a brave man, instead we got a cave-in man. We got Monty Python's "Brave Sir Robin".

2012 is coming, and the Republicans are likely to have two years of unchallenged Congressional dominance to solidify their stranglehold on the three branches of US governance. The media is already massaging the voters to see things their way in the November election, the latest effort of which is an interview with "Speaker" Boehner.

Anonymous said...

Obama became president by playing the biggest race cards of all! He told whites, ignore my race and lack of job skills & vote for me or you might just be racist. Meanwhile he courted black voters by saying he'd be their first black president and finally bring them the 'change' of color they had all hoped to see in the white house one day. For God's sake he staged an entire event around comparing himself to MLK all day long on MLK day! Yet what most seem to forget is in America everyone gets a choice and if people want to think racist=they can. Why is it everyone gets a choice here, but this one now? If we just accepted the truth that yes all peoples are racist in some ways and moved forward the world would be alot better than this PC lie that makes everyone miserable in the long run for fear of being called racist. The NAACP, Jessie & Al have made their entire live$ about race baiting. Why should we be surprised that Obama would follow suit in doing what works when? He now courts the illegal's by claiming we are all racist for wanting federal immigration laws enforced, lol. This will only end when American's can look beyond the fear of the word racist and embrace it like any other choice which is what made this country great to begin with. USA=freedom of choice-including the ones we don't all agree with.

The Ostroy Report said...

I don't "work" for Fox! Actually, it would be just peachy to get an actual paycheck from them to preach my liberal truths to their ill-informed, misguided viewers. What better a job!

WDRussell said...

I am completely ashamed of the Democrat party. Every time breitbart, newsmax, or fox says something, they jump in bed and pull the covers over their head, please don't hurt us.

It is strange that the Dem with the most balls is named Hillary.