Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A pair of pennies regarding Shirley Sherrod

First and foremost, I don't think Shirley Sherrod is a racist.  I don't know her personally, I have never worked with her, the only information I have about her is second or third hand knowledge.  But even from that filtered point of view, she seems like a decent enough person and, as far as I can tell, isn't a racist in the pejorative sense of the word, which is pretty much the common way the accusation is bandied about.

That's not to say, however, that she didn't do a racist thing.  She did.

But she also corrected her action and made right by her victim.  And to her victim's credit, he didn't let her get away with the racial discrimination and insisted that she help him in his situation.  He helped her see a bigger world and realize that she was doing a racist thing and she seems to have corrected her actions and, probably, her attitude as well.  As she said, it's not about black and white, it's about have versus have not.  And while historically some with power have worked to discriminate along racial lines, it is not the case that white equals "have" and black equals "have not".

Ok, so she did a racist thing but checked her actions and redeemed herself.  Does that make her a racist?  No, I don't think so.  But what if she had been a white man who had done the same thing?  What if she was, oh, say a senator who made a stupid, off handed, and quite public remark that was of the racist variety?

Ahhhh, well in that case Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton and all the other race baiting idiots would have been calling for his job!  PUT HIS HEAD ON A PIKE AND MAKE AN EXAMPLE OF HIM!!!  And what of the nodding zombies noting their affirmation of the actions in the audience?  Is anybody demanding their heads be put on a pike and their jobs be rescinded?  No, of course not.  They're black.  They can't be racists.

Well, the truth is that even black people can be racists.  Even civil rights so called "leaders" can be racist.  In fact, it's extremely hard to advocate for a particular racial group and campaign for fairness in the face of historic inequality without, at the very least, sounding like a fire breathing racist or, at worst, actually becoming a fire breathing racist.

For example...

How long before "black farmers lost their farms in droves because they simply could not get loans due to unfair lending practices at the time" becomes "whites refused to grant loans to black farmers".  The first accurately, albeit clinically, describes the situation.  
Unjust lending practices kept needed capital out of the hands of black farmers and they went bankrupt, unable to feed their families.  
No doubt those same farms were bought by white neighbors who were able to get loans from the very same banks that refused loans to the black farmers because "ain't no nigger gonna get even a dollar from this bank".
Yup, that was the case in the 50s, 60s, 70s, and probably even into the 80s.  My suspicion is that the general level of racism had cooled significantly both culturally and legally by the end of the 70s.  I could be wrong, I was just a young pup back then, but the US had come a long way culturally from the 50s to the 80s.  But I digress.
The second description above, however, starkly paints "whites", not merely bankers (who were almost universally white 25 years ago), with a broad brush stroke and assumes all black farmers would have gotten a loan, except for the refusal from all "whites".  Statements like that are either the start of or the fruit of a racist attitude.  And it's hard to guess from just a phrase, or a speech, which it is.

Which is why Shirley Sherrod shouldn't have been fired.
But only if Don Imus shouldn't have been fired, either.


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