Shirley Sherrod -- An American Heroine

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This is the moment for all decent Black folk, and Latinos, and Whites and Asians, to stand up and denounce those who still yearn for the bad old 1960s. The Sherrod incident could turn out to be a true teachable moment--for The White House, the NAACP, and all Americans. Much more so than the public relations driven Beer Summit around the Gates-Crowley affair.

[Black Star News Editorial]

Ever since this nation accomplished what many of us believed would not happen in our lifetime --the election of a Black man as President of the United States-- there have been vicious backlash.

In reality, the backlash started even before Barack Obama was elected. Some of those people who yearn for the good old days, when privilege was guaranteed through White skin, started showing up at John McCain's and Sarah Palin's rallies, holding racist signs depicting then candidate Obama as a primate or a "savage" African from Kenya. He was also, allegedly, an unpatriotic Muslim-terrorist sympathizer.

The backlash, regrettable as they may be, aren't surprising. There are many people who are vested in the rigid racist structures of the past. People who thrived on the myth that they were entitled to privilege because they were inherently better than Blacks.

Once that myth had been exploded they realized that now they actually have to be rewarded based on merit. Such people would do anything to appeal to base racist instincts. But history marches forward.

During the 1960s when it became obvious that the Civil Rights Movement, a coalition that included Black and White activists, was going to fundamentally transform these United States, the reactionaries --in the form redneck sheriffs, racist elected officials, including governors, and bigoted parents who vowed not to allow schools to be desegregated--emerged on the national consciousness.

Yet in time, they could not stop the march of history. Many who harbored bigoted views at that time and are still alive today may look back with shame at their conduct.

Today the disciples of those reactionaries of the 1960s are once again on display. Some have found refuge in the Tea Party, as clearly demonstrated by the ugly racist posters depicting President Obama as a primate or wearing a Hitler-mustache during Tea Party rallies. They have media personalities such as Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck, to promote and disseminate their reactionary racism.

Decent citizens of these United States mustn’t allow the reactionaries to carry the day. Case in point--the recent firing of Shirley Sherrod, a Department of Agriculture employee. A so-called conservative, Andrew Breitbart, had posted a video of Sherrod from 24 years ago, when she addressed an NAACP branch. She supposedly told her listeners that she had discriminated against a White farm owner who needed her assistance by not doing as much as she could have.

Turns out that the lynch mob had circulated a doctored presentation. Sherrod had actually been making a point in her speech and she clearly later says--that at the end, she realized that the struggle was essentially between the haves and the poor. It wasn't so much about whether one was Black, White or Latino. This part of the presentation was not shown by the racial arsonists.

The matter was compounded when Sherrod was fired by the Department of Agriculture after the White House reportedly sent the signal. She had also been criticized in a commentary by the NAACP President Ben Jealous.

Why was the White House and the NAACP so quick to throw Sherrod beneath the bus?

Ever since the Skip Gates-James Crowley affair, President Obama has walked an even more delicate line when it comes to race issues. In that incident, he had correctly observed that the Cambridge officer had acted foolishly by arresting Gates who had been in his own home. Still, the Right Wing lynch mob accused him of reverse racism.

So, moving into the mid-term elections The White House wanted the Sherrod matter resolved instantly. Even at the expense of punishing an innocent victim. Without even giving her the benefit of the doubt. Are we that terrified of the racial arsonists?

The NAACP wanted to look like an equal opportunity ombudsman. The organization had recently been ripped by Right Wing media outlets after it correctly condemned the Tea Party's affinity for tolerating racial arsonists. The Sherrod matter seemed like a God send. Attack a Black official caught on tape seemingly making racially insensitive remarks.

Turns out The White House and the NAACP were all wrong. They had been fooled by fiction posted by a so-called conservative then amplified by Right Wing media outlets.

The incident says a lot about the lack of credibility of these Right Wing outlets. But it also says a lot about the people who abandoned Sherrod, a decent woman, so quickly, without even hearing her side of the story. In fact, it turns out she's been in touch with the White farm owners, a now very elderly couple that's come out to support her and tell of how she helped them save their farm.

Needless to say, she deserves her job back with a promotion and raise—and public apologies.

This is the moment for decent Americans to realize that there is a reason why they voted for President Obama in the first place--beyond the fact that he was clearly the smartest candidate with a clear vision. The voters want this country to transcend the shackles of racism and bigotry that prevents the U.S. from reaching its full potential.

This is the moment for all decent Black folk, and Latinos, and Whites and Asians, to stand up and denounce those who still yearn for the bad old 1960s.

The Sherrod incident could turn out to be a true teachable moment--for The White House, the NAACP, and all Americans. Much more so than the public relations driven Beer Summit around the Gates-Crowley affair.


"Speaking Truth To Empower."

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