Wednesday, July 21, 2010

This Is How Post-Racialism Looks: Another Take on the Firing of Shirley Sherrod

Following an embarrassing turn of events, the White House, via Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack have apologized to Shirley Sherrod. Sherrod was fired from her position at the USDA following the broadcast of a misleading video by rightwing blogger Andrew Breitbart and Fox News.

During the video, Sherrod appeared to state that she harbors personal biases against whites and that she failed to work diligently on behalf of a white farmer. The longer version of the video, however, reveals that Sherrod explained to the audience that by working with poor farmers, she learned to view poverty, regardless of race, as a disadvantaging factor. She also helped to save the white farmer's land.

Rush to Judgment
Rather than listening to the entire video or to Sherrod, who tried to explain her comments, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack immediately fired Sherrod, and the White House approved his actions. Now that that media have discredited the misleading video footage, Vilsack and Obama have apologized for the kneejerk and wrongheaded decision.

Vilsack has also offered Sherrod a job within the USDA. It is unclear, however, whether she will take the job. Earlier today, she indicated that she would feel uncomfortable returning to the agency.

The Costs of Post-Racialism: Race = Kryptonite
The Obama administration acted terribly in this situation. Rather than listening to a veteran civil rights advocate, administration officials trusted a misleading broadcast by rightwing Fox News and Breitbart.

The Obama administration, however, has long acted as if race were political kryptonite -- something to avoid at all costs. As Ta-Nehisi Coates of The Atlantic argues, this rush to avoid things racial led Obama to try and settle the stir surrounding the arrest of Henry Louis Gates with a few beers. Obama unwittingly entered the political thicket when he said that the officer acted "stupidly." Once people began to describe Obama's comments in racial terms, he swiftly retreated. Similarly, in this situation, Obama (either before or after Sherrod's dismissal), quickly rushed to distance himself from race.

Many of Obama's supporters have argued that he must avoid discussing race -- even if they generally see value in racial discourse. Others, however, believe that society must abandon race discussions altogether. During Obama's campaign, for example, many of his supporters praised him as a symbol of post-racialism.

Post-racialism, however, is simply a rhetoric of denial. So long as inequality exists along racial grounds, the move to avoid discussions of race will do more harm than good. The post-racial discourse impedes honest conversations about the operation of discrimination and the existence of inequality. It also precludes the development of policies to ameliorate racial inequity. Hopefully, the cheerleaders of post-racialism -- especially those who became fans simply to support Obama's candidacy -- will now rethink this doomed approach.

For more on this subject, see:

Shirley Sherrod Wants to Educate President Obama On Issues of Race

Lessons For the NAACP From the Shirley Sherrod Fiasco

Vilsack Reviewing Sherrod Firing, But She Is Not Sure She Wants the Job

6 comments:

Aspasia said...

Hopefully, the cheerleaders of post-racialism -- especially those who became fans simply to support Obama's candidacy -- will now rethink this doomed approach.

Don't hold your breath, Darren.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Aspasia: I won't. But I will take every opportunity to teach them how wrong they were to go along with this.

Hippi Chicki Niki said...

Please stop insulting us cheerleaders. We don't deserve that metaphor.

"Post-racialism, however, is simply a rhetoric of denial. So long as inequality exists along racial grounds, the move to avoid discussions of race will do more harm than good. The post-racial discourse impedes honest conversations about the operation of discrimination and the existence of inequality. It also precludes the development of policies to ameliorate racial inequity."

No need for me to comment! That quote and this guy (http://bit.ly/aH2iAt) say exactly wha I think. Olbermann did a darn good job last night as well.

More links on this I loved:
http://bit.ly/bcjQft
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21134540/vp/38366985#38366985

The one sort of silver lining is that this being cleared up so quickly has forced Breitbart into the public eye with a vengence, every ugly, hateful bit of him. It has forced him into the public eye as he really is while the controversy is still hot and has put the reality of the ACORN situation there while people are still watching. Many people that believed the ACORN scandal did not necessarily hear the exoneration and context and heavy editing that came three months later. I'm glad that his actions in both cases are now being constantly talked about in the 24-hour news cycle. Perhaps that will serve to protect his future potential victims.

I also think that Shirley Sherrod deserves at least 5 free punches. His unthinking persecution of her and trashing of her reputation in an effort to hurt and organization whose point he was simultaneously proving is one of those things that deserves a beating. And that is from a non-violent hippie advocate of peace. He repeatedly has shown a complete lack of empathy for and willingness to destroy the lives and reputations of people of color and I cannot wait for karma to balance out his vitriol.

The worst part of it all, his complete lack of insight or apology and his attempt to defend his actions by saying he was trying to destroy a historic defender of civil rights for trying to address a threat to civil rights. His repeated attacks and unapologetic attempts to destroy organizations that address the obstacles faced by minorities is notable for, like I said earlier, proving the NAACPs point about racism.

Now, here's another link about the causes of "White Anxiety" that was sent to me by another LFC alum: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/19/opinion/19douthat.html?src=me&ref=general

I also did a post collecting a lot of media dealing with the subject of the alleged racism of the Tea Party Movement on my blog. The Shirley Sherrod thing, while it was it's own post this after noon will certainly be added as an update to that one.

Hippi Chicki Niki said...

P.S. It's wild to watch the "modern racism" that psychologists have researched, observed and documented come out of hiding and become so overt.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Sorry to insult the cheerleaders! lol.

Hippi Chicki Niki said...

Thank you, kind sir, for your apology. We've taken enough heat this week from the Connecticut court. While I do not support Quinnepac getting rid of Women's Volleyball, the thing about us not being a sport stung.

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