A great little column.
So it turns out Shirley Sherrod is not a racist, at least not anymore. It wasn’t white people she was against, Sherrod decided, it was rich people. After that, her struggle was to ensure the “have-nots” could tear away more from the “haves.” Being a class warrior won’t get you fired in Barack Obama’s Washington — it’ll earn you a promotion. And that’s what Obama offered, along with a presidential apology. Sherrod is said to be mulling the deal.
Meanwhile, no word from the NAACP on how its “I’m sorry” letter to the tea party movement is coming along. This mess started with a spurious and politically calculated accusation from the civil rights organization that the tea party is a hate group driven by racism. The charge came without evidence, but with the obvious intent of marginalizing the tea party’s influence in the upcoming elections. This is what politics and race have come to. An accusation that ought to be leveled with the greatest sobriety is tossed about the way little boys fling schoolyard insults.
While the Sherrod incident was unfolding, we also learned that a group of liberal journalists banded together in 2008 to help get Obama elected. (More to come about the integrity of the press.) One tactic suggested was to publicly accuse their conservative peers of being racists to distract from the coverage of racially charged remarks made by Obama’s pastor.
The strategy was never applied, but that it was offered reveals an understanding of what a potent political weapon the charge is, and how cavalierly some people are willing to use it. Late last year, when Obama was just starting to lose his rabbit’s foot, former President Jimmy Carter declared that attacks on the president’s policies were rooted in the racism of Americans who couldn’t deal with having a black man in the White House. Carter is detached enough from reality to actually believe what he said.
Others know better, but perpetuate his theory to insulate Obama from the harsh criticism that comes with the job — the damage they’re doing be damned. The tea party, because it is conservative and opposes Obama’s agenda, is the new favorite target. I’ve visited several of the group’s meetings locally and have never seen a hint of racial impropriety. And yet the accusations keep flying.
The obvious danger here is using the charge of racism as a tool to leverage political advantage makes it useless for its original purpose. The NAACP should know better. It has the most to lose if “racist” becomes just another “yo’ mama” taunt.