Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Not Only Race

Digby describes the Administration's characteristic "cowardice" reflected yesterday in the dismissal of Shirley Sherrod from the USDA:

They are telling wingnuts everywhere that all they have to do is gin up a phony controversy (especially about a black person, apparently) and the administration will fire them so as not to shake confidence that they are "fair service providers."

The President is encouraging "wingnuts" (not my term; they are not "nuts" but cold, calculating, and malicious); it is a phony controversy; and "the administration will fire them" so that it can avoid controversy.

But I don't think it must be a black person. In this instance, of course, being black was almost a prerequisite- it's tougher to accuse a Caucasian of being "racist," or discriminating, against whites. And, admittedly, Van Jones was (still is) black; but it doesn't have to be a black.

When Glenn Beck addressed the issue on GOP TV Tuesday evening, he declared (after having viewed only an edited, abridged video) "Those are obviously racist comments that deserved to be condemned;" equated the incident to the Henry Louis Gates/Cambridge Police confrontation; and referred to the Reverend Jeremiah
Wright scandal. Admittedly, Beck is confident his audience is filled with racial animosity and never misses an opportunity to exacerbate racial tension.

But there may be a greater factor at play. But as Beck himself hinted, Sherrod did not emphasize the factor of race in her work. In her speech to the local NAACP group, she explained

When I made that commitment (at age 17 years old to remain in Georgia and help people), I was making that commitment to black people, and to black people only. But you know, God will ... put things in your path so that you realize that the struggle was really about poor people.

She added

It’s not just about black people, it’s about poor people. We have to get to the point where race exists but it doesn’t matter.

Beck and the rest of the Fox News gang probably would be distraught that an employee of an administration they loathe would long for a "point where race exists but it doesn't matter"- but that was in the longer and unedited version, which they had not viewed. But Beck did play the video clip of Sherrod recognizing "that's when it was revealed to me that it's about the poor versus those who have not..." and commented

So, it's about rich vs. poor. Based on that belief, Shirley shouldn't be fired, she should be promoted in this administration. Make her green jobs "czar." Make her the regulatory "czar" or manufacturing "czar" or the energy "czar" or director of Medicare/Medicaid. She fits right in with nearly all of Obama's appointments. Why didn't the USDA and Barack Obama wait until they knew all of the facts?

While taking a cheap shot at the "czars" in the Obama administration (ignoring the greater number in the Bush 43 administration), Beck knocks the idea that "it's about rich vs. poor." I would not suggest that Beck doesn't have a grudge against black people; he has made that prejudice all too obvious. But what really bugs him (and to at least as great an extent, Rush Limbaugh, who will weigh in on this on Wednesday) more is the idea that one of those dreaded "progressives" recognizes that the real struggle is one of class. Beck is, after all, tied to the hip of Dick Armey's corporate lobbying group, FreedomWorks. Take race out of the equation, and Glenn Beck is left with a lot of white listeners who cannot be manipulated by race-baiting, and will start to re-evaluate their allegiances.

Unfortunately, trying to sell the Administration, with Vilsack at Agriculture, Emanuel as Chief of Staff, and Barack Obama as President, on the need to look out for the needy apart from race is a very tough task. Good luck to her on that; and to the President, who must make the right, and courageous, move by rehiring Sherrod for the Department of Agriculture.

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