They Should’ve Talked to Sheldon Whitehouse

Bob Herbert in today’s NYT on USDA official Shirley Sherrod– an op-ed called, ‘Thrown to the Wolves’.

Ms. Sherrod was not even called into an office to be fired face to face. She got the shocking news in her car. “They called me twice,” she told The Associated Press. “The last time, they asked me to pull over to the side of the road and submit my resignation on my BlackBerry, and that’s what I did.”

This is brutal, and reflects badly on the Obama administration.

Someone should have talked to our Senator Sheldon Whitehouse. When he met with constituents at the Butcher Block Deli several months ago he was asked about defunding ACORN. This was at the height of the hysteria. He said that his time as an attorney general had given him a great regard for the principle of innocent until proved guilty. ACORN had its problems, but was hanged on trumped up evidence, it turned out.

You can’t keep your principles when you react to every news cycle. The more that comes out about Shirley Sherrod the more disgraceful this episode becomes.

In 2005, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, there was a news story that some right-wing journalist was looking for examples of rich white people who died in that disaster. There were no such cases. At the time I was going to the ‘No Time to be Silent’ vigil on North Main Street in Providence, and took the microphone to sing a song I had been inspired to write–
‘Looking for Corpses in All the Wrong Places’.

Some people are desperately trolling for examples of black racism oppressing white people.

My minister gave me a good take on that. He said that the real harm comes from prejudice plus power. When prejudice can shut doors and systematically exclude millions of Americans from equal opportunity we need systemic reform.

Shirley Sherrod was probably collateral damage in a political game aimed at discrediting the NAACP and black people generally. Sadly, the point she was making when her words were taken out of context is that we need to look beyond our differences and recognize our common need for justice.

It will be our loss if she leaves public life. And Sheldon Whitehouse had it right, that everyone deserves a hearing.

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9 responses

  1. Maybe Ms.Sherrod got a raw deal.
    This oft repeated nonsense about how “minorities” can’t be racists is ridiculous,however.
    Louis Farrakhan is a racist and anti-Semite,and so are the New Black Panther party,and Rev.Wright.Denying that is a lie or severe stupidity.
    You often describe yourself as a pagan.Fine.No one has a right to make a value judgement on that,but why do you have a minister?Does the Unitarian Church accept pagans in the congegration?I mean pagans don’t share a montheistic belief,do they?
    Not being “religious” myself,I’d feel out of place in a church or synagogue or mosque.
    BTW please don’t try to sell an incompetent to the manor born individual like Sheldon who got it all handed it to him as some paragon of social justice.That’s just disgusting.
    ACORN was a corrupt organization and good riddance to them.

  2. “When prejudice can shut doors and systematically exclude millions of Americans from equal opportunity we need systemic reform.”

    Agreed, affirmative action needs to be abolished.

  3. Donald Wolberg | Reply

    Words of course have meaning and should be used with care. We seem to throw charges of this or that bad behavior around as carelessly as we toss words about. The use of “minority” and “equal opportunity” and “race” are all excellent examples of how words are misued. The term “race” has a biological meaning, usually ignored by people who are either ill informed or have an agenda. In almost all instances where the term is tossed about, the meaning of the “tosser” is either wrong, or motivated by an agenda. In the case of Arizona’s efforts to protect its citizens, for example, “race” and racist” are in the press almost every day with reference to people designated supposedly as “Hispanics.” In actuality the laws that petain not only mirror Federal laws (unenforced hence the need for Arizona to protect its citizens), but “Hispanic” is not used since the law is intended for people in this country without legality. “Hispanic” means “of Spain” or those folks who speak “Spanish” as their primary language. “Of Spain” or “Spanish” speakers are terms without racial meaning what so ever that is based in reality, no more than anyone who speaks American English or classified as “of America” carries any racial meaning.

    It is unfortunate that the Obama administration has used real or imaginary or inaccurate supposed racial terminology in an effort to shift attention from its less than satisfactory efforts to govern. More care should be used before language is used.

  4. As on the first page of the Week in Review section of the New York Times, race is the third rail of American politics–touch it and you die.
    But we need to maintain an open, intelligent, and respectful discussion if we are to heal the very real wounds and scars left by profound racial injustice, both historical, recent and current.

  5. It seems to me the point of the story is the total viciousness of right-wing, willing to destroy individuals (Sherrod) and organizations (ACORN, NAACP) that work for the disadvantaged without the slightest regard for fairness or truth. And the media is no so right-wing (think of talk radio, cable news etc) they can get away with it most of the time.

  6. I have a modest proposal for all of us who are white. Next time we are in white company and some acquaintance or co-worker uncorks something really prejudiced– call them on it.
    I kept silent for too many years, but when I finally began to speak up, nothing awful happened and I respected myself more.
    When people of all colors speak out against bigotry the peer leadership effect is powerful.
    And you may discover that some in the crowd are not as ‘white’ as you thought they were.

  7. Who are you to think that hasn’t happened without your prompt?You save the world types think you hold the patent on what’s right.You don’t.

  8. Observer, you are pretty quick to make assumptions about what kind of type I am. But if you spend the rest of your time fighting prejudice I’m glad to hear it.

  9. I don’t go around looking to crusade against prejudice,but I don’t sit around listening to people use ethnic slurs passively.Believe me or not,I really couldn’t care less.
    I am not jumping to conclusions-you have been very visible and outspoken on numerous social issues in RI for a while now,so I am familiar with your predilection for causes.
    Anyone who ever turns on Capitol TV would know who you are.

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