There's an odd movement on the right to tarnish the current administration as racist. Listen to Fox "News" and the conclusion is pretty clear: Barack Obama, his appointees, his staff are racist. This is Newspeak at its finest. What could the point possibly be except to stir up white racism and fear?
First we have the story about "Black Panthers" intimidating voters at a Philadelphia polling place in 2008. The Justice Department investigated but did not prosecute. "Racism!" screamed the foxy ones. Perhaps, though, there wasn't sufficient evidence to make a case, given that the Fox reporter stirred up all the commotion. Now, I don't think people should show their billy clubs (or guns) at a polling place, but this little Fox story doesn't make the administration racist.
Then the NAACP, quite independently of my last column, no doubt, asked a batch of tea party leaders to repudiate (Ah! That's the word Sarah Palin kept looking for!) the racist elements of their movement. They did NOT say that the tea party was racist. But the squawking on the right began.
I watched the Memphis tea party leader being interviewed along with an NAACP leader. The black guy kept saying, "The NAACP asks that the tea party reject the racist elements within it." The white guy kept saying, "The tea party does not embrace racism."
Look it up: rejecting is different from not embracing. "Elements within" are not the same as the whole. The two sides were speaking different languages. But the racist signs and language are there for all to see at media-filmed tea party gatherings. If the tea parties don't embrace racism, then they should adamantly repudiate it.
Finally, the Shirley Sherrod story shows us what happens when sound bites are tossed into the whirlpool of television. Apparently, Andrew Breitbart, right-wing blogster and storymaker, cut up bits of a speech that Sherrod gave to a local NAACP group in March and made a little film. Bill O'Reilly picked up the story and called for Sherrod's resignation.
In those remastered bits, Sherrod appears to tell the group that because he was acting superior to her, she failed to help a white farmer as much as she could have. In fact, though, when we heard the rest of the speech, we learned that Sherrod was talking about how she overcame the fury that gripped her when her father was murdered by white supremacists and the collective farm that she worked so hard to sustain was sold in failure.
She linked up the white farmer with a white lawyer whom she thought could help him best. The lawyer, however, did nothing. When the farmer frantically called her again, seven days before his farm was to be sold on the courthouse steps, she swung into action and worked overtime, above and beyond, found him a lawyer who would do what was needed - and the farm was saved. Sherrod and the farmer became lifelong friends.
Sherrod had learned, to her surprise, that white farmers were losing their farms too, and she realized that race wasn't the all-encompassing factor that she had thought it was as a child. She told the NAACP, "It's not about black people and white people; it's about poor people. We have to work together." Her speech was about her personal growth, her ability to forgive, and her resolve to do her best for ALL disadvantaged people.
The White House and Tom Vilsack have both apologized to Sherrod for demanding that she resign. They were so wrong to leap into action on a Fox report. And the Fox crowd owes us all an apology. If it's not the "war on Christmas" or "the evil conspiracy of the left," it's "Obama and his people are racists." George Orwell's dark vision of the future has come to pass. "We have always been at war with ..." name your own enemy.