Thursday, July 22, 2010

A Peak into the Conservative Imagination: Ms. Sherrod's Speech Was Most Certainly Not About Transcending Racism

Since the election of Barack Obama it has become increasingly clear that the dividing lines between Left and Right, liberal and conservative, are hardening. I have always hoped that we can come together on issues of policy in the interest of the national good. However, an increasing amount of evidence gathered over the years has come to suggest that conservatives and liberals live in different ethical, cognitive, and emotional universes. In total, these differences are only amplified by the right wing echo chamber noise machine.

Given our country's struggle against white supremacy in order to make whole the central contradictions of the founding and the Constitution-- and how race is as Gunnar Myrdal famously labeled the central American dilemma--moments such as the harassment of Henry Louis Gates Jr. by the Cambridge police, and now the saga of Shirley Sherrod, are lightening rods for our ideological and political divisions. In the case of the latter, to most reasonable folk it seems a cut and dry case where a good person was unfairly maligned by a political opportunist for the purpose of a cheap win in a game of race baiting politics where the bogeyman of "reverse racism" was the weapon of choice. Apparently, not so on the other side of the partisan aisle.

This is only one data point among many that will come into being in the aftermath of the Shirley Sherrod debacle. Nevertheless, it is quite telling for how despite the facts in the Vox Populi Conservative imagination, it is the NAACP and Shirley Sherrod who are the villains and smear merchant Andrew Breitbart who is the victim.

From the National Review:

Ms. Sherrod's Speech Was Most Certainly Not About Transcending Racism

I've been too busy to get into this, but I finally watched the unabridged Shirley Sherrod speech this morning. I also listened to Mark Levin's interview of Brent Bozell (the "audio rewind" can be accessed here; Mark's interview of Brent is the second and third segment of last night's show (i.e., click on July 21)).

It's all well and good to say Andrew Breitbart should have done more due diligence, or that his source should not have edited out important parts of the tape. As I've noted before, when taped or transcripted statements get presented to juries in litigation, we rely on the "rule of completeness": if one side plays or reads a part of the statement that the other side claims is misleading, that other side gets to present whatever parts of the full statement are necessary for context. This way, the jury has an accurate sense of what the speaker was saying. Clearly, there were parts of the tape left on the cutting room floor that should have been considered in conjunction with the parts Andrew published — and knowing Andrew, he would have published them if he'd had them. (By contrast, the NAACP did have the full speech, but threw Ms. Sherrod under the bus anyway.)

All that said, I don't understand the sudden pendulum swing in the other direction. Now, in Take Two, we are to understand that Ms. Sherrod was not exhibiting racism. Instead, "taken in context," we're told, she is actually a heroic figure who has transcended the racist views that, given the terrible things she saw growing up in the South, were understandable.

Okay, but how come it is not incumbent on the folks who are pushing the revised narrative (and slapping Andrew around over the old one) to account for the Sherrod gem below (which begins a little after the 22 minute mark in her speech)?

For context: She is talking about how the evil "people with money," beginning in the 17th and 18th centuries (i.e., around the founding of our republic), created a still existing system designed to institutionalize racism against black people while simultaneously keeping poor whites and poor blacks divided. All highlighting is mine:

So that's when they made black people servants for life. That's when they put laws in place forbidding them [i.e., blacks and whites] to marry each other. That's when they created the racism that we know of today. They did it to keep us divided. And they — It started working so well, they said, "Gosh, looks like we've come upon something here that could last generations." And here we are, over 400 years later, and it's still working.

What we have to do is get that out of our heads. There is no difference between us. The only difference is that the folks with money want to stay in power and whether it's healthcare or whatever it is, they'll do what they need to do to keep that power, you know. [Applause] It's always about money, ya'll. [Applause and murmurs of agreement.] You know. I haven't seen such a mean-spirited people as I've seen lately over this issue of health care. [Mumurs of agreement.] Some of the racism we thought was buried — [someone in the audience says, "It surfaced!"] Didn't it surface? Now, we endured eight years of the Bushes and we didn't do the stuff these Republicans are doing because you have a black president. [Applause]

I wanted to give you that little history, especially the young people, I want you to know they created it, you know, not just for us, but we got the brunt of it because they needed to elevate whites just a little higher than us to make them think they were so much better. Then they would never work with us, you know, to try to change the situation that they were all in.

So, in Sherrod World, mean-spririted, racist Republicans do nasty things that "we" would never do because we have a president who, being black, is above that stuff. Still, we have-nots need to band together for "change" because a cabal of haves, desperate to keep their power, is still imposing their centuries old capitalist system of institutionalized racism — the same racism that courses through the Republican Party and surfaces on "us versus them" issues like healthcare.

Pardon me, but I think I'll stay off the Canonize Shirley bandwagon. To me, it seems like she's still got plenty of racial baggage. What we're seeing is not transcendence but transference. That's why the NAACP crowd reacted so enthusiastically throughout her speech.

With an ever-expanding federal bureaucracy assuming overlord status in what used to be private industry and private matters, are we supposed to feel better that this particular bureaucrat's disdain, though once directed at all white people, is now channeled only toward successful white people ... most of whom — like successful black people — worked very hard to become successful? Are we supposed to forget that when the Left says, "It's always about the money," you don't have to have a whole lot of money to find yourself on the wrong side of their have/have-not equation? Are we supposed to take comfort in having our affairs managed by bureaucrats who see the country as a Manichean divide beset by institutionalized racism?

1 comment:

OhCrapIHaveACrushOnSarahPalin said...

Welcome to Conservatopia, where whites are perpetual victims of black retribution.

They've been bleating the same b.s. since what, the first slave rebellions ca. 1620 or whenever?