Monday, July 26, 2010

A New Color Of Racism

One of the most bizarre turns in political propaganda since the Obama election has been the assertion of so many conservatives that "Obama is racist against whites". Although Obama is identified as black, he is half white. He was raised in an entirely white household, only seeing his black father a few times in his life. Although such racism is possible I suppose, I think such a repudiation of his entire background would be difficult to hide. In reality, such aggressive accusations seek to throw a smokescreen over the real issues of racism here.

I am white and strive to be as liberal and unprejudiced as possible with all people. I grew up in a highly prejudiced family, live in an area still remarkable for its lack of racial integration---in a very covert way. I know how racist so many Americans are, I see it every single day. The difference is the private attitude versus the more politically correct public attitude. If there are no black people around, (and if they don't know me well enough to know how I believe) people still make very racist comments in public. Whether at work, or standing in line at the grocery store---the only difference I can see in forty years is that people 'look around' first before making a derogatory racist comment.

Racism against blacks is just the tip of the iceberg. Attitudes against Hispanics and Arabs are just as insidious among the white middle class in middle America. However, since our President is black, stories of racism involving blacks and whites are the meat the media industrial complex feeds on every day.

Just about a year ago the news was full of a controversy with racial overtones. A black Harvard professor and a white policemen had a confrontation in the professor's home. (See my post "Are We Becoming a Police State?"). The story effectively ended with the two protaganists sharing a beer at the White House with President Obama and Vice President Biden.

The newest controversy involves an employee at the U. S. Department of Agriculture, Shirley Sherrod. A conservative blogger posted a doctored video of Sherrod making a speech. The impression in the doctored video aided and abetted the meme that blacks are prejudiced against whites. If you viewed the doctored video, it sounded as if Ms. Sherrod purposely let a white farmer lose his farm due to her own prejudices.

A media feed frenzy ensued after the release. No one checked to veracity of the video, even though the conservative that released it (Breitbart) had done the same thing once before. He released a doctored video to do damage to the community organizing group ACORN. It was part of an ongoing media campaign among conservatives against ACORN. The video seemed to be the final straw. The group's reputation was destroyed--and the fact that the video was doctored didn't receive the same frenzy of publicity from the media.

So Sherrod's name was dragged through the mud. She was fired from her job (or forced to resign) so quickly she barely had time to pick up her things from the office. Pundits trumpeted her tale on every network, Fox of course leading the pack.
When the news came out that her father had been killed by a white farmer...and that her husband had been one of the earliest civil rights activists...the media industrial complex and its pundits chewed and chewed on those tales hour after hour. Members of the White House staff and at the NAACP (a black organization) patted themselves on the back for swiftly taking action against this 'prejudiced' woman.

And then...the white farmer that Sherrod was referring to in the speech stepped forward. He hadn't lost his farm, in fact Sherrod had helped him save it. A few others stepped forward in her defense. Then the complete, undoctored video appeared in the media. The truth was the opposite of everything the media, the U. S. Government and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) chose to believe.

Sherrod's boss apologized, the White House apologized, members of the media apologized. President Obama talked to Shirley Sherrod by telephone. Such apologies are nice, but you can't 'unring the bell'. The continued conservative strategy of 'if you throw enough crap at a wall some will stick' continues to succeed. Even vindicated, this incident has upended a decent person's life. And to her dying day, the controversy will continue to be mentioned when her name comes up.

Most of today's media are scribes and talking heads. The most basic elements of journalism (obtaining information and verifying it) are seldom present. These feeding frenzies filling the airwaves day after day with manufactured drama are becoming frightening.

Most of all, a year later the racism divide is just as deep. Is it growing? I don't know. I am impressed that this country elected a black President, so maybe we are getting better. Yet we must ask ourselves: How many hundreds, maybe thousands of blacks experience blatant racism such as this--but do not have the education and political connections of a Professor Gates or Shirley Sherrod? What about the people who aren't able to clear their names so easily?

What color is racism today? Once I would have described it as red--the color of anger and blood. Now I would say that it is yellow. The color of cowards.

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