July 25, 2010

Sherrod incident shows conservative tactics

Thrown to the Wolves

By Bob HerbertThe Shirley Sherrod story tells us so much about ourselves, and none of it is pretty. The most obvious and shameful fact is that the Obama administration, which runs from race issues the way thoroughbreds bolt from the starting gate, did not offer this woman anything resembling fair or respectful treatment before firing and publicly humiliating her.

Moving with the swiftness of fanatics on a hanging jury, big shots in the administration and Bill O’Reilly of Fox News came to exactly the same conclusion: Shirley Sherrod had to go—immediately! No time for facts. No time for justice.
And:This sorry episode shows the extent to which we’ve lost sight of the most basic elements of fair play, responsible reporting and common decency in this society. And we’ve turned the race issue entirely on its head. While racial discrimination is overwhelmingly directed against black people in the U.S., much of the nation and the media are poised to go berserk over the most specious allegations of racism against whites. Even the N.A.A.C.P. rushed to condemn Ms. Sherrod, calling her actions “shameful,” without bothering to seek out the facts—which, incredibly, had unfolded at an N.A.A.C.P. event!

Later, after officials at the organization had found and released a tape of Ms. Sherrod’s entire 45-minute speech, the group’s president, Ben Jealous, apologized and said the N.A.A.C.P. had been “snookered.”
Rachel Maddow puts the Sherrod incident in context:

Rachel Maddow's Mega-Takedown Of Fox News' 'Scare White People' Tactics (VIDEO)

By Jillian RayfieldRachel Maddow explained last night that the right-wing tactic of characterizing black people--like, say, former USDA employee Shirley Sherrod--as being racist against white people is nothing new in this country. In fact, as Maddow documented, "the political strategy of terrifying white people about the threat posed by black people" goes back to the 1960s, with the campaign of Alabama Gov. George Wallace, and the "Southern Strategy" that was a part of Richard Nixon's presidential campaign.

Maddow continued that now, "making white people feel like they are victims of black people" is one of the "Fox News agenda items" designed to fear-monger about race.

(Click on the barely visible pause button if you don't want to watch the whole video.)

Finally, Herbert tells us the deeper meaning of the Sherrod incident:Which brings us to the most important part of the Shirley Sherrod story. The point that Ms. Sherrod was making as she talked in her speech about the white farmer who had come to her for help was that we are all being sold a tragic bill of goods by the powerful forces that insist on pitting blacks, whites and other ethnic groups against one another.

Ms. Sherrod came to the realization, as she witnessed the plight of poverty-stricken white farmers in the South more than two decades ago, that the essential issue in this country “is really about those who have versus those who don’t.”

She explained how the wealthier classes have benefited from whites and blacks constantly being at each other’s throats, and how rampant racism has insidiously kept so many struggling whites from recognizing those many things they and their families have in common with economically struggling blacks, Hispanics and so on.

“It’s sad that we don’t have a roomful of whites and blacks here tonight,” she said, “because we have to overcome the divisions that we have.”
Comment:  Needless to say, this analysis applies to other minorities too. For Latinos, it's "the illegal immigrants are coming to get you." For Muslims, it's "the terrorists are coming to get you." For Indians, it's "the greedy casino owners are coming to get you--to take your money, your land, and your rights."

In short, the brown-skins are coming to get you. Only the Republican Tea Party, the party of whites, can save you. Vote for one of your own kind.

For more on the connection between racism and classism, see Is Racism Really Classism? For more on conservative fearmongering, see White Conservatives "Angry About Racism," Why Americans Hate Welfare, and Conservative Worldview = Fear of Cooties. For a history of conservative race-baiting, see America the Conservative.

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