Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The High-Tech Lynching of Shirley Sherrod: What's worse, Right Wing Lies, or Liberal Fears?

By Tracie Powell

The only thing worse than right-wing conservatives who lie, mislead and consistently play the race card are liberals who jump to wrong-headed conclusions.

Such is the case in this week’s saga of Shirley Sherrod.

Sherrod is the former USDA employee who was fired after conservatives, including those over at Fox News, aired an edited video clip of her speaking at a NAACP event in March about an experience that happened 20 years ago. First publicized by right-wing zealot Andrew Brietbart, the video clip duped many – including the NAACP – into believing Sherrod had used her position of authority to hurt a white farmer in Georgia, when in fact she simply chronicled a very powerful and personal journey of transcending race in America when helping a white Georgia farmer two decades ago.

That white farmer and his wife were first to publicly praise Sherrod for helping them save their farm.

As a child of the South, having been born and raised in Georgia, I can state with authority that life is viewed through a racial lens of black and white. My parents, both black, had me bussed to a mostly-white high school because they believed - as many did in years past and some still do now - that white meant better: Better teachers, better books, better future. That’s all Sherrod was saying. She sent a white farmer to a white lawyer, thinking “his own kind would take care of him.” I don’t anticipate Brietbart, anyone at Fox News, few in the mainstream media or even a certain someone inhabiting the White House to relate to the invaluable lessons Sherrod spoke of or my upbringing; such thinking is a distinctly Southern thing and those folks probably wouldn’t understand.

Richard Cohen has an excellent piece in today’s Washington Post about the cowardice of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who fired Sherrod, and the Obama Administration, which supported the firing. What Cohen misses or glosses over, however, is the cowardice of right-wingers who continually seek to tear down the legacy of civil rights advances in this country. Conservatives, via a well-orchestrated media campaign (i.e. Fox, which for some inexplicable reason has the term “News” in its moniker) are even trying to rewrite the history and contributions of Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall as something less than…).

Furthermore, Cohen’s column misses the complicity of mainstream media outlets propagating conservative misinformation about Sherrod.

In fairness, even the NAACP jumped to the wrong conclusions when confronted with Breitbart’s contrived video clip; the organization later issued a formal apology to Sherrod for calling her “shameful” without having all the facts.

Vilsack also owes Sherrod an apology that comes with a new job offer and a raise. He says he's reviewing the debacle, while Breitbart and conservative ideologues busy themselves with shifting the blame to the White House, which in turn, is trying to distance itself from the firestorm.

How mighty white of them. I do not use this term in the racial sense so much as I do to underscore the hypocrisy of them all.

What we do not need, however, is to hear from Obama on this issue, especially not before another midterm election. Save the reheated race speech, an apology or another beer summit and let’s leave healing race relations and helping the poor to the experts. You know, folks who have made it their life’s work to do so. People like Shirley Sherrod.

Oh wait. Sherrod is out of a job.

Tracie Powell is journalist and law student living in Washington, DC.


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