The Shirley Sherrod Debacle & How Race Still Matters In 2010
The Shirley Sherrod story has dominated our news over the past couple of days. It’s become a lightning rod for commentary on both sides of the political spectrum and has done nothing but damage Barack Obama‘s standing with not only the common American, but also the African-American community.
In brief, columnist (and right winger) Andrew Breitbart released a heavily edited video on July 19th of Sherrod speaking at a March 2010 NAACP banquet. The edited video features the former United States Department of Agriculture director discussing her negative—and what could be deemed racist—attitude towards a white farmer who sought her help when his farm was going to be foreclosed on 20 years ago. The video reignited a debate on race in America and subsequently cost Sherrod her job as both the Obama Administration and NAACP condemned her. What the video did not show was the context of Sherrod’s remarks and how she looked past race, assisted the white farmer and how the issue was about poverty and not about race. The family she helped even spoke out in favor of Sherrod. She has since received an apology from the administration, and has been offered another job with the Department of Agriculture.
But the damage had already been done and Sherrod has become the center of a very ugly battle between conservatives and liberals.
In my humble opinion, the Shirley Sherrod debacle, a well-crafted plan by right-wing media and Tea Party supporters to distract from the alleged racist aspects of the Tea Party, was equally divisive and destructive for both the Obama administration and the NAACP who were the ones accusing the Tea Party of being a racist group.
How did this become so destructive? By leveraging the issue, nobody, especially African-Americans in positions of celebrity and power, wants to discuss race.
It’s obvious to right wingers Obama’s time as a substitute president has ran its course. And now the Republican party and right-wing media outlets are orchestrating a plan to tear down the foundation Obama stands upon as they look to reclaim the house they feel belongs to them. If I were a conservative, I would applaud this diabolical plan which forced Obama and the rest of the country to tackle the issue of race head on. But alas, I’m not, and it upsets me that we could get hoodwinked and bamboozled. It did take the NAACP and the Obama administration to play their part in order for the plan to work. It was like faking a left hook to get the opponent’s hands up and then delivering a nasty gut punched that knocked the air out of everyone involved.
The big issue here is how both the Obama administration and NAACP were so quick to throw Sherrod under the bus without considering the source of the video. Just a little bit of research would have revealed Breitbart’s malicious intent. It speaks to how loosely knit liberals and the African-American community are in the face of adversity. Had the skin colors been reversed and George W. Bush was in office, rest assured the Bush Administration would have protected the individual under fire until every possible resolution had been exhausted. Republicans have proven time and time again they will stick together no matter what. I personally commend them for their ability to keep their dirty laundry quiet for the most part.
Unfortunately, Obama has yet to find comfortable footing on the issue of race. It was a weakness Breitbert exploited and right-wing media outlets such as Fox News have picked up and run with. Not only has the attention been completely removed from the Tea Party and their questionable character issues regarding race, it’s shifted the momentum and thus seen Obama reach his lowest approval rating to date.
What Obama lacks is what I’d like to call “Bush Balls.” Bush had the ability to be wrong but not give a damn what anyone thought about it. He didn’t look to cater to liberals,who he knew weren’t going to vote for him anyway. He cared about him and his “crew.” Obama has tried to reach across the board and appease anyone. Unfortunately, that’s not possible. It takes an “I don’t give a f*ck” attitude to get things done and Obama hasn’t learned that. He’s bent on every issue he’s stood for (health care anyone?). He’s remained mum on issues that affect African-American’s such as the Sean Bell, Jena 6 and Oscar Grant cases. Because of his lack of an aggressive stance, he has lost supporters while giving opponents the fuel to build a fire and smoke him out of the White House come 2012.
We’ve been hoodwinked into believing is race is a non-existent issue, especially when it comes to politics. When in fact, race in America is still an issue. Conservatives know this and used it to their advantage when the Sherrod video hit the net. It was the art of saying something without saying anything at all. Breitbart laid the trap and watched both the Obama administration and the NAACP squirm. Race discussions in 2010 are taboo. If you bring race into a mainstream discussion, you are met with “This isn’t the 60′s” or “We’re one race: the HUMAN race” rebuttals. So rather than meet the problem head on, the current administration rushed to eliminate “the problem” and thus find themselves in the awkward position of being utterly careless with an issue that’s now blown up in their faces.
Meanwhile, the media has almost completely absolved the Tea Party and Breitbart from the burden of guilt.
It was a well hatched plan that should be a wake up call to everyone that race still matters in the good ol’ U.S. of A. Maybe we are the only ones still sleeping.