Thursday, July 22, 2010

Under the Bus

Though we have all experienced it while growing up, there are few things more cruel than to be punished for something you didn't do. Even worse is to be punished for doing something noble...especially if you show some personal vulnerability while doing it.

With President Obama under fire for any number of reasons, and the NAACP taking heat for casting the Tea Partiers as racists without anything as mundane as proof, it seemed the obviously wise political move to react swiftly and forcefully when a member of the Administration---speaking at an event sponsored by the NAACP---made remarks that could be construed as overtly "racist": talking of her attitudes about helping a white farmer facing the loss of his farm while a lower level employee at the Department of Agriculture, she spoke of viewing it through the prism of race, and "not doing all she could" to help him. So, she was promptly fired from her job with the Obama Administration, and the NAACP issued a statement denouncing her. All without bothering to check with her first...since, after all, there is simply no excuse for racist comments.

The only problem was that the remarks quoted were not racist at all. Rather, speaking of her early days as a USDA employee, she was speaking over her personal struggle to overcome the racial attitudes she grew up with...and the need to overcome prejudice of all kinds in order to work for a better world.

Shirley Sherrod is probably not perfect; I may not like her politics, and it's entirely possible we wouldn't get along if we met at a party. But there's something sad---and curiously ironic---in having our purported guardians of racial attitudes rush to judgment, hurl insults, and threaten the livelihood of someone who's only crime was speaking candidly and openly about her own personal struggle to move past race and toward a place where people view each other simply as people.

Of course, this morality tale probably won't give our modern day race-baiters and civic Morality Patrol cause to pause the next time someone is quoted on a blog saying something that, at first blush, sounds a bit odd. But, at least, it should give the rest of us something to think about.

JEFFREY CAMINSKY, a retired public prosecutor from Michigan, writes on a wide range of topics. His books include the science fiction adventure novel The Star Dancers, the exciting second volume in the Guardians of Peace-tm series, The Sonnets of William Shakespeare, and the acclaimed Referee’s Survival Guide, a book on soccer officiating. All are published by New Alexandria Press, and are available on Amazon, as well as directly from the publisher.

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