Friday, July 23, 2010

The Real USDA Racism Story

If there is any good to have come from the sordid affair of Shirley Sherrod's firing from the US Department of Agriculture, it is the possibility -- however slim -- that this fake story about reverse racism will lead to some justice in an incredibly well-documented story of actual racism.
Meanwhile, the fringe blogosphere rages on about the oppression of the majority. When economic times are tough, the majority begins to suffer in ways that are normally common for the minority, and eventually some  get resentful and start to think that the minority is somehow victimizing the majority. In such times, demagogues will always emerge to take advantage of the fear, and to help divert attention toward scapegoats. I've written a lot in this space about how this translates to discussions of immigration; it is even more deeply rooted in discussions of race.

In the present case, one white family was supposed to have been the victim of a racist African-American government official, and she got fired. The incident was 24 years ago, and she in fact did help them. The story was about the feelings she overcame in the process of doing so. The supposed "victims" of Sherrod's racism, Eloise and Roger Spooner, rushed to her defense and are at this point planning a reunion.

So the white victim of racism in this case was not real. "Reverse" racism might exist somewhere, but not in this case. Meanwhile, very real cases of racism have been documented, proven in court, and awarded compensation. The United States Senate has, however, so far refused to fund to the compensation due hun

The National Black Farmers Association is hoping that the attention to the one fake case might just lead to justice in the thousands of real cases, and is calling on all friends of farmers to do something about it. NPR's Brian Naylor describes the deep history of racism at USDA and the claims of many thousands of African American, Latino, and female farmers who have proven their cases but received nothing so far. Some have, in fact died of old age while waiting.

Back to the Sherrod story: as reporter Mara Liasson mentioned in a story about the president's apology to Ms. Sherrod, most people involved in this case have apologized, from Secretary Vilsack and President Obama to the NAACP (partly) and Bill O'Reilly (partly). The only person not to have apologized is the real culprit, faux journalist Andrew Breitbart, who is most responsible for starting this mess.

Of course, what energized this whole incident was the recent controversy over the NAACP characterizing some elements of the Tea Party movement as racist. This video, posted on the NAACP site, provides more than a few bits of anecdotal evidence.

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