Tuesday, July 20, 2010

pounce on any example they can find of "black racism"

[Updates below]

In apparent reaction to recent revelations of blatant Tea Party racism, Fox and other news outlets have seized on a relatively ancient video clip, of a black USDA official admitting that she offered a white farmer less help than she could have. The efforts to make snippets from Shirley Sherrod's speech a national story constitute a vintage white whine -- "Hey, black people can be racist too ya know!"

These efforts by Fox and others to spark a media firestorm exemplify a more general common white tendency -- that of finding, often with a sort of righteous glee, examples of "black racism." In my experience, most white people point out random, very specific and individualized examples of black bigotry far more often than they point out individual or institutional acts of white racism.

Also, the timing of such examples tends to be revealing. White people usually point out "black racism" when they're confronted with examples of white racism. In the current case, in a rather breathless piece entitled "Video Shows USDA Official Saying She Didn't Give 'Full Force' of Help to White Farmer," Fox News operatives reveal in their very first sentence just why Today's Viral Video suddenly interests them:

Days after the NAACP clashed with Tea Party members over allegations of racism, a video has surfaced showing an Agriculture Department official regaling an NAACP audience with a story about how she withheld help to a white farmer facing bankruptcy -- video that now has forced the official to resign.

Hmmm . . . I can't help but wonder, how long has Fox News, or perhaps someone else, been holding onto this story?

I wonder because this common white attention to "black racism" usually functions as a distraction, an effort to deflect blame from white people. In a (by now, I hope, classic) blog post, Abagond labeled this white move the Arab Trader Argument:

The Arab trader argument is my name for an argument white Americans often use to defend the evil they do in the world. It goes like this: if white Americans do something evil and terrible it is all right –- or at least not all that bad –- so long as they can find at least one example from world history of someone else doing the same thing. Thus the Atlantic slave trade was not so bad because Arabs traders sold slaves too! . . .

The thing is utterly morally bankrupt. It is the everyone-does-it argument that we tried when we were eight. Our mothers did not buy it then and it does not work now –- except maybe for the morally blind.

I haven't heard Fox News and other pilot-fish media followers described as "morally blind," but the term does fit the way they're pouncing on this snippet from a speech that was delivered not this week or even this month; former USDA official Shirley Sherrod's delivered this speech in . . . 1986!

What Fox and other blatantly conservative media outlets are willfully blind to in this case, as in other similar ones, is the fuller context of what Sherrod was saying. Again, Fox goes ahead and admits what it's doing in this sense; a line in their story reads,

The point of [Sherrod's] story wasn't entirely clear; only an excerpt of the speech is included in the video clip.

Kudos to CNN, then, for holding back a bit on this common white deflection reflex, at least on one of its programs. In the following "American Morning" segment, anchors John Roberts and Kiran Chetry ask, "Does that video tell the whole story?" They also make the effort of simply asking Sherrod what the whole story is, including the point of her anecdote -- while she thought at the time that race was important, she later realized that her treatment of the white farmer was wrong, and that "the issue is not about race, it's about those who have versus those who do not have."

I'm tempted to say that Fox News has already gotten what it and other conservatives want, which is to get us all talking about race instead of social class -- that the ol' Divide-and-Conquer strategy seems to have worked again, and here I am writing a blog post about race, when even the black person in question is saying that we should really be talking about "those who have versus those who do not have."

And yes, back in the 1980s, as now, small American farmers of all races were suffering from the predations of big-time Agribusiness. However, as Daily Kos dairist Deep Harm writes, "minority farmers had a particularly difficult row to hoe":

In 1920, black farmers in the United States owned 15.6 million acres of land; by 1999 that number had fallen to 2 million, and it's still dropping by 1,000 acres per day. In 1910 there were 926,000 African Americans involved in farming; at the end of the century, just 18,000 remain[ed], and they're going under at the rate of five to six times the rate of white farmers.

Racism and classism both matter, of course, and for non-white people, the former greatly exacerbates the latter.

The end of the YouTube clip that started this faux/Fox controversy contains a recent statement by NAACP Vice President Hilary Shelton, to the effect that his organization does indeed "repudiate racists within our ranks." The implication of juxtaposing Shelton's statement with Sherrod's is a question -- Will the NAACP condemn Sherrod's actions?

As a white person, I don't think it's up to me to judge the race-related actions of non-white people. However, I wish the NAACP hadn't been so quick to come out against Sherrod*:

"Racism is about the abuse of power. Sherrod had it in her position at USDA. According to her remarks, she mistreated a white farmer in need of assistance because of his race," said Benjamin Todd Jealous, president and CEO of the civil rights group. "We are appalled by her actions, just as we are with abuses of power against farmers of color and female farmers."

"Her actions were shameful," Jealous continued. "While she went on to explain in the story that she ultimately realized her mistake, as well as the common predicament of working people of all races, she gave no indication she had attempted to right the wrong she had done to this man."

As Sherrod herself said in response, it's "unfortunate that the NAACP would make a statement without even checking to see what happened. This was 24 years ago, and I'm telling a story to try to unite people."

To be clear, I'm not claiming that Sherrod did the right thing in not helping a distressed farmer as much as she could have, just because he was a white man who treated her like an inferior. Instead, I'm pointing out the common white tendency that's demonstrated by many of the white reactions to the snippets from Sherrod's speech: pointing out "black racism" in an effort to deflect attention from white racism.

Is there anything else besides that tendency that could explain why this story is now national news?

*As I noted here, my thanks go out to commenter Queen of the Cynics, for pointing out here the problem with this sentence.

Update: Some are saying that the White House, which may have indirectly told Sherrod to "resign," got punked by Andrew Breitbart, the same sleaze-merchant responsible for the ACORN pimp-and-prostitute fiasco. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says, however, that the decision was his alone.

Many news outlets are now reporting the fuller context of Sherrod's entirely unobjectionable remarks. Sherrod wasn't working yet for the USDA when the episode she describes happened; she made up for not helping the white farmer as much as she could have by befriending him and his wife, Eloise, who described Sherrod as a "good friend" who hasn't been "treated right," and who also "helped us save our farm."

I wonder if the White House will get Shirley Sherrod's job back for her? Guess who, of all people, thinks it should.

How much weirder will this sad, race-baiting parable for our times get?

Update II: This non-story-that's-become-a-huge-story has metastasized into such an extensive series of interviews, apologies, rebuttals, new charges and countercharges that it needs its own blog -- surely one exists? I'd add more links to some of it, but I think they'd be out of date by tomorrow.

So I'll just add a question, in case anyone's still reading here. What do you think of the claim some are making, that Shirley Sherrod is the Rosa Parks of our time?


  1. There's also this:


    Apparently what the edited tape doesn't show is where she talks about how she spent two years helping that farmer and became good friends with him and his wife.

  2. Just for background


    This arose from the same blogger (Breitbart) that backed the Acorn/pimp/video debacle. That's why this is suddenly news.

  3. I think it's official, Fox News is not a news network. They are looking more and more pathetic by the day, and those who take them seriously are even more pathetic.

  4. Is there anything else besides that tendency that could explain why this story is now national news?

    Right now, the right wing machine is trying very hard to create a new narrative; that not only is President Obama, himself, a racist, but they are also trying to promote the idea that it's carrying over into his government policies and into all government agencies.

    You do realize that Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh got paid good American money to state, out loud, that President Obama is supposedly a racist and that they still have jobs for doing so? Could you do that on your job publicly, or me on mine?

    Never forget for one instant that at at this moment in time, the right virtually owns all US media, not just FOX. So the more people they get blogging and discussing it, the more they can say - see, this is an issue. To the point where it gave me pause to put President Obama and the word "racist" in the same line because I know that just generates one more search return along those lines. And people very rarely read beyond the headlines or blurbs or sometimes beyond comparing how many search returns they get for one thing versus another to determine how popular or "true" an idea is.

    That's why it's national news right now. I notice that the screen cap above conveniently obscures the year in the date so it looks, to me, just glancing at it, that it took place in March of this year.

    Which brings us to the "everything old is new again" narrative of FOX and the right that white people are not racist, but black people sure are. And by complaining about, mentioning or claiming that the Tea Party is racist, that the GOP has no real black leaders save the one guy they can't stand but are stuck with, and that the Republican Party has nothing to offer the American People, let alone black people, then guess what - you're a racist. Especially if you're a person of color.

    Up until yesterday, if you had googled racism, you probably would have come up with some results that included a lot of white folks. Google the word racism and the first image that comes up is of a black woman defending herself against charges of racism.

    Earlier today, I was googling something else that had to do with the "Swagger Wagon" commercials. Even though it's a meme that's pretty much over, there was some debate as to whether the commercials were racist. I was of the firm opinion that they are, although many, including many black folks, did not agree. However it is interesting that I came across so many articles patently dismissing that racism in the commercials was even possible (sounds like a recent TKAM discussion I just had) and went on to dismiss people who were offended by them.

    I also came across an article about the Kanye West/ Taylor Swift Debacle of last year where Kanye interrupted Ms. Swift's acceptance of an MTV music award. I think most of us agreed that Kanye's behavior was rude and over the top, however many articles went the extra mile and described his behavior as "racist", meaning he had singled out Taylor Swift because she was a white girl.

    So that's the new answer to white racism. To throw the charge right back at black people and say, "Well so are you?" It's pathological derailment and it's changing the narrative of racism faster than most people will be able to absorb more than a soundbite or a Google Search.

  5. Calling Fox News "morally blind" is ableist and an insult to blind people.

  6. Before I saw the most recent story I was of the opinion she did the right thing by resigning. Although I understood her sentiment as a black person; as an employee of the government (I assumed) her personal feelings had no place on the job. Personally I know a lot of black folk that would have done the same thing in light of our history (and the white farmer’s arrogance) but two wrongs didn’t make a right I felt.

    Now it seems the video was edited in part to demonize her and derail the conversation on race. The creators of this video felt perfectly justified in this fraud, motivated by bigotry and grounded solely on the cooperate myopia of their condition; it is beyond shameful for these people to denigrate her. Fox News is a racist network subsidized by a white demographic of the same persuasion, providing the perfect fodder needed to legitimize their racist views. It polarizes the dichotomy between white and non-white and solidifies the repute of the privileged.

    The sheer hypocrisy of this mindset just makes you wanna holler.
    An excerpt:
    “People who are duped by others and relate to a projected image are considered fools or "country bumpkins." Hypocrisy in this way becomes not a negative personality trait, not immoral or abnormal behavior, but it is both expected and cultivated. It is considered to be a crucial ingredient of "sophistication," a European goal. European intracultural, political behavior is based on hypocrisy-as are business relations, the advertising media, and most other areas of public, and social interaction. It is merely a manifestation of this theme when Americans claim that politicians are basically honest. The claim itself is hypocritical, and the public expects it to be so. We all know that the objective of commercial advertising is to convince us to buy products so that manufacturers can make large profits, but the slogans attempt to persuade us that the product is beneficial to our well being, as though the producer has our welfare at heart.”

  7. 2 updated links

    NAACP backtracks on criticism of Sherrod: ‘We were snookered.’


    White farmers at the center of Shirley Sherrod controversy: ‘No way in the world’ she is a racist.

    my big issue is why the folks that should know better and confirm shit before condemning anything, i'm especially looking at you naacp, always fall for the okeydoke.

    how in hell do they take the biggest liar's edited video as the truth, after he's been exposed with lying about acorn with edited footage?

    srsly, it's tiring watching poc, women and progressives lose their jobs while bigots remain employed or get hired despite what they say and do.

  8. @Macon D

    Hello. I love this post and had something related I wanted to tell you about. I want to recommend something to you that I REALLY REALLY think deserves to be posted because I want to know what others here would think of it. (I looked at the commenting guidelines and stuff but can't find where there's an explanation as to how to suggest material to be posted and I don't wanna clog your email inbox)

    I found a link to a clip of Michelle Obama talking to the NAACP, saying what appears to me to be something entirely reasonable, innocuous, and true. But there are over 460 comments on the video attacking her, embodying so many of the posts from this site it's seriously uncountable. And yeah, they're very white comments.

    I so completely do not understand how someone could watch this video and feel so much indignation. I just don't.


  9. Black people aren't allowed to express their natural, legitimate resentment at white society for being enslaved and discriminated against...In the paranoid collective white mind, to allow an open expression of resentment or anger is to open the door for possible retribution...which is, i believe the driving force behind white people's denial and defensiveness...hence the equation: resentment = "reverse racism"...

  10. Sherrod is a bureaucrat who got crushed by the new media when Breitbart deliberately took her words got taken out of context. Media's ability to make any set of statements particularly damaging is not a positive development for Democracy or the United States. The natural reaction is, of course, more spin, guarded statements, and bland banalities from leaders.

    Fox News and the Republican Party are particularly effective at exploiting "bellyfeel" - the instinctive gut reactions of most Americans. "Bellyfeel" reactions apply especially to issues of race.

    Historical grievances are particularly dangerous. One of the traditional advantages of America was that Americans were forward focused on the future, rather than dwelling on the past. Of course, America's past is full of crimes - so are all nations. Selective historical amnesia / reconciliation is unfortunately a necessity.

    The "whites as victims" mantra is relatively new, and extremely dangerous. It shows how the "cult of the victim" has now spread throughout America; furthermore, there is an expectation that victimhood will confer political or social benefits. As pointed out in other posts, many whites will invoke their ethnic orgins, claiming victimhood due to anti-Irish, or anti-Jewish, or anti-Polack discrimination. Identity politics are poisonous because they undermine broader, if rarely achieved, national notions of being an American. But white claims of discrimination are fairly ridiculous. On balance, Americans make all sorts of judgments based on race and class - white people usually benefit from such judgments.

    Finally, when I hear white people argue about discrimination based on skin color, my instinctive reactions are: "you are not a serious person. Shut your whining mouth and leave my presence. Life is not fair, and if it occasionally is not fair to you, it's frequently unfair to other people. Get back to work."

    Most Americans have fairly simplistic ideas of how other races think and behave. This stems from de-facto segregation, by choice, in family and, to a lesser extent, in social matters. In matters of Church, family, marriage, and burial - we live and die apart.

  11. Guardian said
    "The "whites as victims" mantra is relatively new"

    not really. it's been around in various forms at least since reconstruction.

    if the WH doesn't reverse it's position. smh.

    i have no doubt if Mrs. Sherrod was white and this bold faced lie and deception had taken place and been exposed, they would have eventually given her back her job. at the very least, the media would be leading the charge on an hourly basis and the WH would have complied quickfast to avoid upsetting white folks and "real 'muricans'"

  12. @ Guardian,

    I disagree that the "white victim" trope is new--Ross Douchehat's op-ed piece in yesterday's NY Times referenced Pat Buchanan spouting this crap in 2000. And if you want to get historical about it, honestly, I'm reminded of high/late medieval European anti-Semitism. While European Christians were quite busy making life very difficult for Jews (to the point of, you know, a massacre or many), they--Christians--developed the false legend of the blood libel. That Jewish people would go after Christian children. (I know that today, European-descended Jews are considered white, but I am talking about 1300, not 2010. ^_^ )

    However, Fox & Co. have tapped very expertly into Real America (TM)'s bloodlust, disdain for taking responsibility, and need to scapegoat, I will grant you that.

  13. On Arab Traders.

    The Arab trader does not just come up in casual conversations. I was helping my friend's 12 year old with her history homework the other day, in liberal San Francisco. We got to the chapter on slavery and there it was, a page on Arab slave traders. The funny thing is that the history book is a history of white people in the last few centuries. There is no other mention of what the Arabs and Muslims were up to in the entire book.

  14. @Jawad

    I know what you mean. I don't mean to derail from the post's original message, but...

    My own experiences in high school, in a class titled "world civilization" (not european civilization) is that the Ottoman empire, one of the most influential empires ever as well as undeniably THE most powerful muslim state in the history of the world did only 3 things in its nearly 5 centuries of existence...

    1.) Conquer Constantinople (you know, and end those wonderful white Byzantines good run)
    2.) Be the "sick man of Europe" (you know, and make those white Europeans wonder what to do to carve up those old Arab lands the Turks could no longer control
    3.) Fight on the side of the central powers in World War I, against the allied powers of Europe, thereby being invaded by white European soldiers in the Gallipoli campaign.

    Seriously, that was it. Even Ataturk and the transition from a muslim state to a secular one (you know, the stuff that most affects the modern day but has no white protagonists in the story line) were things you had to read about on your own outside of class.

  15. I also thought that she pretty specifically said that the reason she didn't give this guy all the resources she could wasn't because he was white, but because she believed he behaved condescendingly toward her based on his own racism and sexism. Which is a very different situation and I feel she was well within her rights to not do everything she could to help someone if she felt she was being condescended to.

  16. White people playing the victim is as old as America itself and is an example of the Orwellian nature of White power.

    - White people genocided and racially cleansed Native Americans in order to steal their land, which they occupy to this very day. But it was Native Americans who were "threatening" those benevolent White pilgrims and colonists expanding Westward!

    - White people enslaved Black Africans in order to exploit their labor and build the American Empire. But it was Black slaves who were "threatening" those altrustic White slaveowners and their way of life!

    - Today, White supremacists like the KKK and their "respectable" Mainstream allies routinely invoke the idea of White people being the victim of "reverse racism" such as with the Affirmative Action issue--all the while ignoring how minorities are below Whites on a variety of economic, social, and criminal justice metrics.

    White Victimology has ALWAYS been the political pretext that White people have used to maintain White power and domination in America.

    To me, this latest media manufactured incident is a classic example of the White Right psychologically projecting their own racism (and underlying guilt) onto those who oppose them.

    You might call this playing the Reverse Race Card, as one blogger has done.


  17. i wonder what the response would be if a white public official ever came forward and admitted that they acted on a racial bias. I mean, without first getting caught on tape saying the n word or something.

  18. Color of Change petition urging the White House to reinstate Sherrod is here:

  19. @Jane Laplain

    Your analysis of racial power dynamics hit the nail on the head. As an Asian-American I can tell you it's a lesson I internalized early on.

  20. It's kind of funny this story actually brings up more then just your Arab trader arguments as far as SWPD:

    Complain that something said was taken out of context and that we should get the full story before we go asking for peoples heads, or give them the benefit of the doubt when the person is white(Don Imus, Michael richards) but if the person is of color demand their head quickly without any fact checking.

    Assume that something isn't a problem if they themselves have not experienced it, and that those who have "must have been doing something wrong".

    Assume that because someone has negative views of white people due to personal experiences in the past(which always brings up the "I myself never owned or did blank so why should i have to pay for it arguments" yet forget that all day we have to hear about POC criminals when some of the POC sitting next to them have never committed a crime, hypocrisy at its finest) they can never look past the skin color of the person they are dealing with to find the human being underneath.

    This story also exposes a mistake many people of color make: We assume that all white people look out for each other and work together in times of crisis. As Ms. Sherrod explained it wasn't about what and black but have and have not. And the have's trying to take as much as they could from the don't have as much. Because honestly the gentleman was a farmer, so he did have something. He had his farm, a way of living land, land always has value. But the amount of value it had in his eyes was nothing as compared to the greedy "Have more" and his future plans for that same land.

    POC also assume(and places like fox help fuel that assumption) that if white people are supporting policies that obviously hurt them in the long run they must have some back up plan. They must have some way to save themselves from the stupidity that they are forcing on themselves and the rest of us. Except as we have seen after the idiocy of the Bush years nope, they help get our pots and their pots repossessed and are just as SOL as the rest of us.

    It seems that as a fuller video came out that Ben Jealous has restored ties between the NAACP and Ms Sherrod. But fox has once again showed us how hard it is to be someone doing the right thing in a world where you have people trying to abuse the hell out of the system. Like with Acorn ANY INSTANCE of ABUSE or even PERCEIVED instance of abuse must be quickly stamped out to prove that "we aren't like the guys who screwed you before".

    And that's the sad story here, Ms. Sherrod deserve her full day in court, just like with James O'keefe and Acorn we should have demanded to see the full video to be sure that it wasn't a hatchet job. Once again we all did not and once again it wasn't just a hatchet job but another lynching. Not even the victim in this case (or supposed victim as their wasn't a victim until Ms. Sherrod was railroaded) cried or implied rape but Mr. Brietbart 24 years after the fact cried rape and before there was ever a trial or witnesses asked Ms. Sherrod is already hanging for a Tree professionally and personally.

    Yes Ms. Sherrod probably did assume at first that she should work harder to help people who looked like her instead of a white family. Because I mean don't white people always tell us how we are united and we should help our own. As she stated that she learned, thats just the bullshit said to keep more money in their pocket as they screw us all white, black, tan, brown, yellow and red.

  21. After all that's happened to reveal this story as the reverse of what it was thought to be, it really sucks how conservatives still manage to control the narrative.

    How and why the HELL does that happen?

  22. @jas0nburns he would apologize, say he has changed, then be heralded as a hero and a changed man by people on all sides of the political spectrum (a la Senator Byrd - I cannot help but make a comparison between the two... it was the first thing that came into my mind.)

    For anyone interested, go to the Color of Change website to send a letter to President Obama demanding the reinstatement of Shirley Sherrod.

  23. Oops... I had not read all of the comments yet when I posted mine, and I notice now that the link to color of change has already been posted.

    Oh, and something that the media neglected to mention as well... 24 years ago (when this story took place) Shirley Sherrod worked for a non profit organization whose SPECIFIC GOAL was to assist BLACK farmers who were in danger of losing their land, hence her referral to another source of assistance for a white farmer. Oh, and in addition, Sherrod and her husband apparently were also part of a lawsuit against the USDA at one point in time, which most likely added to their rush to dismiss her.

  24. Ta-Nehisi Coates has a particularly good piece on this: http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2010/07/on-lacking-all-conviction/

    There's something about this bit of Sherrod's speech in particular that made me think:

    "Young people I want you to know that when you're true to what God wants you to do the path just opens up and things come to you. God is good I can tell you that. When I made that commitment, I was making it to black people and to black people only. But you know God will show you things and put things in your path so that you realize that the struggle is really about poor people."

    To me, that's a noble comment, and possibly what got her into trouble. One thought I've had is that, if a white person had made the same comment about overcoming racism, all the white folks in the audience would've had tears in their eyes. Do you agree?

  25. I suspect that what Breitbart and the Foxy minions have managed to do is get the issue of "black revenge" on the table, however botched this attempt was to strike back at the NAACP's recent and righteous attacks on Teabagger racism. However botched the attempt was, it might spur efforts to seek out examples, other videos of black leaders supposedly being racist. Those would now have more traction, since the Sherrod story has laid the groundwork for them.

    If that's all true, then the botched Sherrod "story" wasn't actually botched, and the real issue, white racism, has been effectively brushed aside.

    This whole thing is getting multifaceted, and right quick too. And as I said before, the conservative wingnuts seem adept at controlling the narrative spin, even when what they're doing is so blatantly wrong.

  26. Thanks for the Coates referral, Jillian. He actually has two posts on it, here and a shorter one here.

  27. Sherrod is a red herring. The trouble with a 24-7 news cycle is that it caters to the political trench-fighters in both parties. Thus, news that is of no importance (Sherrod) or marginal importance (Jena Six) is employed in the endless battles for political partisanship. There is a lesson for anyone serving in a position of actual responsibility (i.e. not news reporters or political operatives) - do not talk to reporters or make public statements. Sherrod has probably worked conscientiously on her duties at Dep. Agriculture for two decades - now, her entire reputation has been destroyed in 3 days.

    The Republicans and the right, however, are much better at this than the Democrats / left. The Republicans are good at connecting with the "bellyfeel" of white American voters, at least compared to the Democrats. Compare how Democrats approach issues now with how FDR framed the issue. Clinton, despite his many faults, could connect with the average American, both black and white.

    Given their historical behavior in office since 1981, the Democrats represent the conservative, responsible wing of American politics, while the Republicans represent the radical, revolutionary wing.

    Now, the instant news media is not particularly helpful for blacks or whites. Stories about how average black families struggle, attend Church, and attempt to raise children cannot be packaged into an easy thirty second narrative. The same with rural white poverty - not understood, not interesting, and not sellable.

  28. Seriously, this guy, wtf. (don't know if anyone has posted this yet, sorry if it's redundant)

    Of course Breitbart wasn't trying to get Sherrod fired. He and the rest of the teabaggers were just looking for some kind of 'dirt' on their opposition. They found it and now they're spinning it for all it's worth, even if it didn't pan out exactly like they wanted it to. They're just desperate to sway people's opinions their way, mainly WP. I just wish it wasn't so fucking easy for them.

    Shirley Sherrod did NOT deserve what she got. The fact that she was pushed into resigning before all the facts came out is sickening.

  29. @jas0nburn Robert Byrd seem to overcome his KKK past, with a "mistake of my youth" speech.

  30. @Guardian

    I love your comment. I agree and find it ineffably disgusting how much better the right has always been at provoking visceral reactions than the left, even despite lampooning the left as emotional and mushy and irrational.

    I find it ironic but disgusting that the people who make the most casually racist remarks, such as comparing black people to gorillas (as happens to Michelle Obama) or talking about black people as backwards savages (Rush Limbaugh once told a black caller to call back "after you take that bone out of your nose") are the ones who are actually acting the most tribalist and primitive.

    The political right, especially the tea partiers and social conservatives, play identity politics more than any group in America and act more like cavemen shaking clubs and making grunt noises at the "other" than anyone else and still are able to benefit from, not suffer from, their depiction of others as being little Rudyard Kipling-esque half-devils and half-children.

    Of course, if you let it be visible that you're upset about this, THEY WIN EVEN MORE because they can then depict their detractors, especially if you're black, as crazy, angry, out of control and out of touch with white America.

    Then, THEY'RE the ones who complain with the old refrain, "you just can't win no matter what you do."

  31. @ gracie and joanna

    I was more thinking about just owning up to the general bias most WP harbor. Sherrod was actually saying something that I imagine it might be refreshing to hear from a White official.... "BTW, last week I did something racist, I was wrong to behave that way and I know it. I realized my mistake and worked to correct it."

    White public figures never actually cop top their own racism. If they even get close it's always at gunpoint in an attempt to save their own ass.

    This woman was being honest and was under no pressure to admit to any racial bias. I thought it was cool that she would let down her guard like that and it sucks that certain white people would use it as an opportunity to jump on her and twist her words and use her as a tool to point the finger at black people saying in essence "see your racist too....so fuck you!"

    It's shitty reading through all the ugly comments on youtube or yahoo whenever a white person cries "reverse racism!" because it's just another excuse to take away from POC, call them hypocrites and belittle them. It's 100% fake indignation. WP who do this are playing the part of the aggrieved minority in order to mock those who suffer real discrimination. Like we really give a shit about being discriminated against, please.

  32. Queen of the CynicsJuly 21, 2010 at 4:23 PM

    As a white person, I don't think it's up to me to judge the race-related actions of non-white people. However, I wish the NAACP hadn't been so quick to come out against Sherrod

    So, basically, "I'm white and thus I shouldn't comment on how POC respond to racism but I can't resist so imma go ahead and comment on how POC responded to racism"

  33. @ qotc

    Except the NAACP itself has come out and said it acted hastily.

  34. I can't even stand to keep up with this story. It's so nakedly dishonest and spiteful for its own sake.

    @ThatDeborah Girl. I feel you. The CONSTANT race baiting and reckless fanning of racial hatred in the media is really starting to terrify me now. Not just worry me, but TERRIFY me. For the last year oh so I've been thinking "Wow, I haven't felt this much naked racial resentment from the white mainstream since the 80's..." But the levels of open race hate are beginning to surpass what I remember in my lifetime. I feel like I'm being sucked backwards in time... I was born in the 70's so I don't remember living thru the "adjustment" period of white people suddenly having to integrate their shit and begin affirmative action.... Is this a backlash? It feels like a mounting Race Riot to me.

    Violence is cyclical. White people haven't mobbed and busted POC heads for a while. I think we'd best gird our loins.

  35. Jane Laplain: I'm feeling the same fear, and have been for some time. I have read some accounts of the outbreak of ethnic violence in other countries, as well as knowing US history, and politicians and media fanning the flames of hostility and conflict to serve their own ends is a very common pattern. This is very scary. I keep hoping I'm overreacting to what's on the news.

  36. Inchoate anger = easily exploitable.....

    I reckon I could fairly guess a lot of the politics of people who post on this website. So, let me offer some thoughts on people you might not really understand...angry white folk (Tea Partiers, etc.).

    Now, first, as will be noted, there is a racist strand within the Tea Party anger - "This used to be our country."

    But, a lot of the anger is related to issues of class and economics. Anger is often exploitable, by the partisans who wish to refocus it on issues that will benefit politicians on polling day. That anger is redirected by both parties, but the Republicans are much better at. Anger is a visceral emotion, and the modern Republican party operates as an emotional machine. The anger stems from perceptions about, and insecurities from, class. Listen to Republican political operatives - they stoke and feed anger and resentment towards an "elite" political class. That's the way a lot of middle class whites feel.

    Race, class, and economics. The past twenty years have seen a great deal of benefits and power accrue within Washington DC (Federal budget growth = growth in disbursement power), while the fortunes of middle class whites have essentially remained unchanged. Furthermore, the prospects for high school only Americans are worse today than at any time since 1970. Meanwhile, the government has just bailed out Wall Street, and has enacted what are perceived to be enormous entitlements. Finally, the Washington DC elites, especially the Democrats (Republican elites disguise it much more), do not "seem" to share the same values as most Americans.

    Rather than make America a more fair or just society (which is hard), or a more economically competitive and educated society (which is hard), or a more moral and humble society (which is hard), it's a lot easier to fire up the political base on an issue like Sherrod.

    The genius of a great politician is to take the inchoate anger, and make something useful of it. FDR did it. His cousin Teddy did it. Weak politicians simply ride it.

  37. White nationalism has always been a bedrock value of the American Empire, given its nature as a White colonizer state.

    Whether it be Liberal Demorats or Conservative Republicans in power, all American regimes ultimately reflect this political reality--some more openly, others more covertly.

    Mainstream White Americans comprise the mass social base for this US Empire and will instinctively attack and demonize the Other (foreign countries, racial minorities, immigrants) as scapegoats for the failings of their capitalist system.

    That's the broader socio-economic context behind these pathetic, cowardly displays of "White anger" that rear their ugly heads time and again.

    White Supremacy and racism--they are more American than apple pie

  38. @Guardian

    But, a lot of the anger is related to issues of class and economics.

    Yes. "Why are us White People struggling not to become an underclass all the sudden? Why aren't us White people as economically powerful as we should be?"

    @ Lynx. Thank you. It's really tiresome how so many wish to minimize the importance of White Nationalism and White Supremacy concepts to American Identity. The US was built and founded on a premise of Manifest Destiny for WHITE People. Does anyone really argue with that? I mean really?

    The economy was structured to benefit a White Ruling Class while exploiting the "Othered" labor classes. White Identity was deliberately ceded to White Working Classes (not all of them all at once, some had to EARN whiteness, like the Irish and the Italians) as a form of cultural capital they could acquire to separate themselves from the "Other" classes... aka people of color. The development of the Consumer Economy we rely on today, wherein Production moved from inside the home to factories and storefronts depended upon the solidification of White Identity to spread.

    A large motivating factor for the Civil War, besides the Slavery Question, was that the North had become far more consumer oriented and factory economy based than the South, traditionally more in-home production and agricultural economy based. This created a real cultural divide in the regions that made it difficult to manage the two regions as a single country. Which in turn made it difficult to compete effectively in the Global Market. Post Reconstruction, the realization that Negroes were now free to roam and settle wherever they pleased, and soon, even to vote SHOCKED and Alienated Northern whites. Negro freedom from slavery was one thing, but Negro EQUALITY? YUCK!!

    Oh dear this is another long one, guess I'd better break it up into two.

  39. (Continued)

    White Identity and National solidarity among ALL White Americans was promoted to heal the rifts caused between The North and The South. At the deliberate expense of all non-white Americans. Whitness itself became cultural capital as well as identity, something to be EARNED (Irish, Italian, Russian, etc..) attracting such immigrants. Racist Stereotypes became a wildly popular cultural commodity. Racist playing cards, Racist literature and entertainment, Racist advertising, Spectacle Lynchings , Whites only real estate in the South AND North AND West literally drove the US economy and largely still do to this day.

    The moral of the story? You cannot treat issues of Race, Class and Economics as separate. The One has always Lead to the Others. The Race concept itself was created to tie issues of Class to an Imperialist Economic agenda. America is the direct product of this white supremacist/imperialist legacy. Its economy and class structure relies on Race. YES STILL. But there is no sustaining such a campaign forever. Whiteness itself is to blame for the growing threat of economic and cultural disenfranchisement White people fear is happening to them today. The Tea Party are perhaps the White Canary in the coalmine of White Nationalism.

    Or let's HOPE.

  40. @olderwoman

    I don't know whether to feel relieved you're scared too or even more scared. I don't know what will lance this boil before it pops but I hope it happens sooneee rathr than later.

  41. errr... sooner that is.

  42. After reading about how Shirley Sherrod's father was murdered by white men who were never charged and seeing her on 'The View' today, I have to say I'm glad that Chicken Little Breitbart chose her to attempt to malign.

    She is such an eloquent rebuttal to the rabid right wing's inability to GTFU and work towards a better country for all Americans.

    The Americans who believe that Breitbart, Fox and Beck can do nothing wrong may not be able to psychologically absorb the truth of Shirley Sherrod's life, but I feel better knowing that they've been given ample opportunities to do so.

    At a certain point, there is nothing to be done about people who are convinced it's their duty and right to be willfully ignorant.

  43. This is like when a former cheater finds a phone number in the pocket of their signifigant other. Without calling the number or asking to gather information they assume something offal is afoot and accuse their lover of cheating all while refusing to call & validate the identity of the mysterious phone number with the SOLE intent to suggest the other parties infidelity.Emotional mind games I say,and only the perverse are its professionals.

  44. I'm imagining (Dr.? Ms.?) Sherrod saying this about a black man: "I didn't give him the full force, but I did enough."

    Would white people care? Somehow, I don't think white people would be shouting about her internalized racism, or lateral racism, or forcing her to resign. White people might even be happy that she didn't go out of her way to help a black person.

    I'm not saying that it's wise for white people to point out POC "racism," but that maybe accusations of black on white racism would seem more legitimate if they occasionally did.

    As a white woman, whenever I hear stuff like this, I can't help but think, "Oh, you didn't help one person as much as you could've, how in the hell is that equivalent to 500 years of slavery and 660 years of closed institutions?" I know that's a privileged statement, but let's (white people, not POC) try to get a little perspective.

  45. Well because of Mrs. Sherrod's experience black pundits and commentors are in vogue now- at least until the smoke clears. News networks and magazines are once again having that ‘superficial’ conversation about race to eat up a few news cycles. As I’ve said before we are relevant in this narrative only when ‘whites decide that we are’ then they scour the countryside, rounding up as many black pundits as they can to speak for their race. Once the conversation dies down and the smoke clears- its business as usual. Missing white kids- other mainstream concerns- you know… the real news. Right now MSNBC can’t seem to get enough of us.

    No white news anchor- pundit or commentator is truly equipped to engage on the subject of race, so as a result America herself is never forced to the table and served up a nice hot plate of ‘self-examination.’ The reality of white supremacy/whiteness- and privilege (as it exists today) seems too volatile and too threatening to the majority’s ego to ever be deliberated in the way that it needs to.

    I’m with Olderwoman and Jane Laplain on this one. My fear is that one day whites will tire of the guise they’ve worn for so long and say ‘screw it.’ That they will rise up in their numbers and ‘seize by force’ that which they feel they’ve been denied in the political process; "democracy be damned." For some whites it is the only thing that makes sense right now.

  46. I reckon I could fairly guess a lot of the politics of people who post on this website. So, let me offer some thoughts on people you might not really understand...angry white folk (Tea Partiers, etc.).

    You just came in here and whitemansplained to everyone.

    Let me make this crystal clear.

    There is nobody that understands the politics, thoughts, feelings and motivations of white folk-poor, rich and everything in between-more than Black and Native folk (not to exclude others)....NOBODY

    You assume that there are a lot of left-leaning POCs here. Maybe you're right.

    You also assume none of us are poor, working class, middle -, affluent etc...

    You assume that none of us are evangelicals, Mormons, atheists, Jews...

    You assume that none of us are farmers, plumbers, doctors, teachers, mechanics, engineers, soldiers, vets or lawyers

    You assume that none of us are from NC, Iowa, Kansas, Alaska, NY (state or city), CO, FL, MT

    I reckon you thought you were coming up in here with some Grand White Knowledge to reveal to us that it's not Race...it's CLASS. I reckon you thought that white folks' class issues are unknown to us. You wrongly assume that these issues have not been brought up to the poor white folks by the rest of us.

    See, this here's the thing when you are on the bad end of the racial barrel...you know the white folks, much better than they know you...much better than they know themselves.

  47. Queen of the CynicsJuly 22, 2010 at 5:00 PM


    And that still has fuck all to do with macon. He could've mentioned their own statement, but instead decided to pass his own judgement on how the darkies messed up their affairs.

  48. QotC,

    My apologies. I can see that I basically contradicted myself in that part of the post, and more to the point, that my "wish" that the NAACP leadership hadn't jumped the gun was nevertheless, in effect, a "judgment."

    That even the NAACP leadership themselves later wished that they hadn't done what they did doesn't make my expressed wish any more valid. And that's because it came from a white person.

  49. LaJane Galt said "There is nobody that understands the politics, thoughts, feelings and motivations of white folk-poor, rich and everything in between-more than Black and Native folk (not to exclude others)....NOBODY."


    Actually, in my experience, that's not true at all. People don't understand what they don't understand. Race, class, background have nothing to do with it. You are either intellectually aware, or are physically aware, of how other people think and behave, or you aren't. I have seen equal ignorance from black and white, and I have seen equal awareness from black and white. It depends far more on the individual person.

    There are few integrating institutions in the United States that require men and women from different classes, races, or ethnic groups to work together and live together. It's not surprising that many Americans live lives separated by race and class, without mutual understanding.

  50. @M.gibson we will be at a better place for a discussion about race in this country when looking at an injustice you don't have to bring in a black face to say what you already know in your heart. Wrong is wrong, you may not know how deeply that wrong effects someone else, but you do know how deeply it effects you. That's the problem I have with most of these articles and the way the press handles it.

    To hell with skin color you want to show me you really believe we are all equal, see discrimination, sexism, orientation bias and say you know what I refuse to allow this to stand. I'm not gay, am not interested in being gay, but you know what I want them to have the same right to do exactly what they wish in their lives that I have, hell I wish that we both had the rights that others without any descriptors behind their name have. I'm a black man I will walk in a room and nine times out of 10 people will see me and some will be terrified. I'm pretty sure a gay person will walk in a room and people will look at them and go through all their social, moral and religious gymnastics as to why their point of view on someone else's life is more important.

    It isn't. If you feel the NAACP jumped the gun say so. If you feel we are all americans than as one american stand up for another, thats what always gets sucked out of this conversation. Why am I called an african american male, because at this moment in time the only people freely allowed to just use the term american without an eye brow raised are anglo saxon americans. You either have british or germanic blood flowing through your veins.

    Everyone else is a dash american just like me irish american, italian american, german, russian, asian(sometimes nicely broken down into their actual countries of origin but usually just asian, because you know ALL ASIANS LOOK ALIKE smh), indian, latino, hispanic, native, muslim/arab, jew. Part of it is each of our individual faults because we have yet to sit down and say we actually mean that pledge of allegiance. How do we say it then complain that a different level of sun tan should be treated differently? We are so happy to be put in that circular firing squad that it's amazing we ever remember to put the guns down and talk.

    If you feel it's wrong say so, don't preface it with I'm white, straight, black, brown etc, just look I'm human, I feel this is wrong this is why. If somebody claims that well since your white you really can't know, yeah I can't know the depths that it effects them, but I have eyes I know how it would effect me and why I wouldn't allow it.

    Until we get to that day, we're just peddling in place

  51. @LaJane..

    This is an exercise in futility. Take a step back... notice the pattern.

  52. Have you see @andrewbreitbart's tweets? He takes absolutely no for what he did to Sherrod and blames the NAACP instead.

    "Shirley Sherrod & I Agree in @NYTIMES: http://nyti.ms/dee4vf The N.A.A.C.P. was “the reason why this happened.”"

    "About to go on Charlie Rose Show. I'm ignoring nothing. NAACP rebuked it's own audience for behavior. It's about hypocritical NAACP."

  53. "i have no doubt if Mrs. Sherrod was white and this bold faced lie and deception had taken place and been exposed, they would have eventually given her back her job."
    I'm not so sure, it's not like the right is averse to siccing their flying monkeys on insufficiently conservative white people...

  54. Queen of the CynicsJuly 23, 2010 at 5:31 PM

    "i have no doubt if Mrs. Sherrod was white and this bold faced lie and deception had taken place and been exposed, they would have eventually given her back her job."
    I'm not so sure, it's not like the right is averse to siccing their flying monkeys on insufficiently conservative white people...

    There's that denial of racism again. I really do wonder how these keep managing to get through the iron gate of moderation.

  55. macon asked,

    What do you think of the claim some are making, that Shirley Sherrod is the Rosa Parks of our time?

    Yeah, I've heard that a few times now.

    Well, she's all over the news, and there's a big photo of her at the top of HuffPo right now. So, maybe.

    But, I think there'd have to be a movement afoot already, some sort of wave for her to put atop as a figurehead.

    Too bad the Teabaggers are too racist to take her on that way; after all, class-based problems are her focus as much or more than race, and that's (at least ostensibly) the source of a lot of the resentment that teabaggers are tapping into.

  56. AE--- I think the only "class" the Tea Baggers are interested in is the "(Upper) Middle Class".... they are actually wealthier on average than other Americans. I wrote a post the other day about how it is now the "in" thing to call yourself "Middle Class"... wealthy people do not want to admit that they have an extreme advantage and so they define their issues as issues of "the Middle Class" I hear people who earn $200K or more a year identifying as "Middle Class" right alongside people who earn $30K, and to me the needs of one are far different than the needs of another. But, in the effort to be called "Middle Class" those at the lower end of the income spectrum unite with those on the higher end to express their disdain for the "poor" The only issue of class that the Tea Baggers are interested in is how they can maintain their status by making the "Lower Class" and "Working Class" look like thieves, beggars, and lazy excuses for human beings.

  57. @Joanna,

    Yep, that's why I wrote "at least ostensibly." I think that while that astroturf "movement" is tapping into the anger of those being screwed by their economic "betters," they don't really care to address the actual, structural problems of class-based oppression in the U.S. The Teabaggers are mostly a relatively well-off white gang, who want "their country back," but yeah, it's their (fantasized) country that they're talking about.


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