Despite my best efforts to ignore the whole Shirley Sherrod incident, I'm giving in.
I wasn't ignoring Sherrod's shafting because I didn't care, but because I care too much. I was ignoring it because I'm training myself to shut up and let stuff pass me by when I have nothing substantive to add to all the brouhaha.
I was ignoring it because I want to give white folks and younger folks a chance to occupy the space where I've battled all my life and where, quite frankly, I'm eager to cede my position for fresher, more creative, more effective combat strategies.
But yesterday I couldn't help but write back to a close friend who was utterly despondent by the Sherrod debacle; and then this morning my fingers were flying in response to a post responding to mine on Tim's page.
So, here it all is, sorta reconstituted...
MY FRIEND (22 July, 7:44AM) So as I watch Sherrod's interview, I sit here with tears in my eyes, thinking about how her father was murdered and a cross was burned on her family's lawn. I can't help but think that not only does white america not understand us, they don't have any idea who we are... I feel like an outsider in this country. But since this is the only home I have really known.... I am ever so thankful that you (who I know understands) are my friend.
ME: (22 July, 10:43AM) Gurrrrl, I have purposely refused to know the details. That said, though, after what you just wrote, I'm tempted to find the interview online and at least check it out.
For so long, I, too, felt like the kind of outsider you described. But that really changed for me when the Obamas won the White House.
After 40--FORTY--years of refusing to salute the flag or pledge allegiance or even let anyone plant a flag near property I owned, this Memorial Day, walking through my flag-fluttering neighborhood, I actually felt like this was, finally, MY country. I thought about putting the flag back up in my yard, where realtors and Boy Scouts religiously plant them on lawns in the wee hours of Memorial Day or Fourth of July mornings, including my lawn from which I've faithfully plucked them for 15 years.
I never quite got around to turning that thought into action, but the epiphany--indeed, the transformation--is that I can even consider flying a flag.
That feeling of belonging showing up among black folks and other folks of color (and, yeah, 66% of the white voters ages 18-34, hallelujah!!) is, IMO, what's making the tea baggers and other right-wingers insane.The suspicion that we might actually claim ownership of our country is what had all the guns and ammo flying off the shelves the morning after the Obamas won.
Enraged white supremacists don't want black folks, brown ones, yellow ones, or even red ones to feel what supremacists truly believe belongs only to them-that absolute ownership of God-n-country-not even for a nanosecond. Not only are blacks and other folks of color supposed to understand that it's NOT our country, more importantly, we're supposed to believe it can NEVER BE our country.
As David Bradley entitled his chapter in my book, every murderous antic of white supremacy has a single goal: to make us stand in fear.
My antidote to all of this is to focus on changing the few folks where I see potential: young blacks and other youth of color and the handful of white folks of all ages who keep seriously trying.
In this last election, the young white voters with vision peeled off from their parents who, sadly, remain blinded by the waning mightiness of their whiteness.
Our job now is to do all we can to get these young ones to understand why they never want to turn into their parents. Our job is to join with the committed few because when they change, they change others and then those others change some more. And on and on.
Don't despair. One thing is for damn sure, no matter what happens with the White House, whether the Obamas get only one year or not, nothing will ever be the same again.
OUR children have seen a brilliant, beautiful, handsome, loving, caring, whole family living all over the White House. THEIR (the white folks') children have seen it. THE WORLD'S children have seen it. That can never be erased.
No matter the ranting, raving old-assed fools in the street, the world has changed. We will never go back. Period.
And we--you and me--WE DID THAT! When we were at university and all the places we've often single-handedly "integrated" since then, facing down the same outraged mass madness that has recently reared its head again, we were just picking up where the folks before us had left off.
Now there are others who're coming along behind us and who will take us where we need to go in whatever way they feel is most effective. This time, though, like I said, their ranks even include many of the children of those hateful white folks' who tried to stop us.
And together we're all gonna keep doing what we do every day through our support of the next generation of revolutionaries who are only the tip of the arrow, a gleaming, shining, piercing, profound tip. The tip that longs to live in the whole world, where there's enough for all instead of in that constantly shrinking dank, dark corner where their parents have backed themselves against the wall of white supremacy.
No worries, li'l sista. We got this.
[Then, last night in response to several posts on Tim's page, I wrote more.]
Several years ago @ another NAACP convention, former US Congressman Julian Bond said, "When the shameless meet the spineless, the shameless always win." The Sherrod debacle is a living, breathing example of what that looks like when the spineless tuck and roll.
That anybody holding a position of responsibility in the Obama administration would try to head off Fox's bottomless venality by "getting ahead of the story" provides only the latest teachable moment for this administration on how NOT to handle white supremacist media attacks.
The "mainstream media" is just as spineless and clueless. How else to explain leaping on the story w/o any attempt to vet it? Whatever happened to journalists who check the source and establish the context?
I hope Sherrod sues that video-slug, Fox, and the rest of the purveyors of that garbage. If she walks away with a big fat check, that'd be a great way to make good on their claim that she redistributes the wealth. After all, it's about time that racist stupidity come with a painfully high price tag.
[On Tim Wise's page, Jason responded to my post, disagreeing that a Sherrod lawsuit would work and maintaining that it wasn't the Obama administration dropping the ball as much as it was the administration being pragmatic in the face of smear tactics that are so effective. That prompted this Note.]
Jason, we're only disagreeing a li'l bit. What you call the administration's "pragmatism" is precisely why Sherrod got shafted. The tactic worked because essential ingredients were present: a shameless perpetrator and a target they could count on to (pragmatically) "drop the ball."
The Obama administration, like most government and corporate bureaucracies, is full of generations of extremely successful, well-educated black folks who are (and often grew up) middle class and have spent their lives as the only black or one of very few black folks in rarified environments around the world. Having been sheltered from ugly, hardcore, virulent, in-yo-face white supremacy, many of them seem to still be figuring out how to deal effectively with its latest manifestation whether it's tea baggers, armed youth militias, the Armani-clad pontificating, or old geezers with comb-over pompadours.
Apparently, a typical response of the administration seems to be to simply decide it's not their issue and walk away. Is that pragmatic? Only if it works.
But guess what? In this economy, with elected millionaires fueling their constituents' fizzling fantasies born of their white supremacist sense of entitlement, ignoring institutional and other entrenched racism ain't making it disappear.
Am I surprised by the Obama administration's inability to steer clear of the fake news traps? Not really.
After all, if I were Obama and I had a choice between, on the one hand, shoring up a collapsed economy, making healthcare accessible to millions, providing for ailing, aged veterans and, simultaneously, trying to reduce the number of dead and maimed vets produced by new wars, all while fighting off Republicans bent on proving there's no low to which they won't go; and, if, on the other hand, I could choose to hurl myself and my administration's resources headlong at white supremacy after seeing The Smartest White Boy (i.e., Slick Willie Clinton) get his ass handed to him for his pathetic, ill-informed, utterly futile attempt at a national race dialogue; well, I'm pretty sure I'd do the same thing Obama's doing: Aim for the things where I can actually make a difference. He has no incentive to do otherwise. Not yet anyway.
Nor do politicians generally have any incentive to tackle race honestly. It's too complicated, layered, and entrenched. Unless they're black pols, they've got nothing to gain. And even politically savvy black folks who should know better, get suckered because they've tied themselves in knots trying to figure out how to update their worn out message and still make bank. (Can you say "Benjamin Jealous and the NAACP"?)
Mainstream media? Same problem. Absolutely no incentive there to get real about race. Certainly, their little news bimbettes and their GQ sidekicks don't have the intelligence or the skills to even begin to fathom how to do it. A snappy sound bite or some sensational tease uttered a zillion times a minute to promo the next mindless piece of pandering won't get us there either. (With a shout out to Soledad O'Brien for trying against all odds.)
So, now what?
That's where we come in-all of us who're trying to pull the sheets off the insanity of white supremacy and figure out how to live in a world where justice, equality, and opportunity are not zero-sum games. One by one, day by day, relentlessly is how we make a difference.
The only place the much-needed, sustained national race dialogue is ever gonna happen is in this labyrinth of social networking and grassroots activist forums where it's already happening; where talk can actually turn into informed collective action. Where talking, writing, blogging, and pounding the street can take a White House.
Which brings me to this point: Electing this President was only the beginning of a whole new game. What fascinates me is why we keep acting like winning the election meant the game was over.
As for the success of a Sherrod lawsuit, Jason might be right when he says I'm "way off." But, my professional training and experience tell me that a well-crafted complaint naming the right defendants could go a long way towards publically filleting Breitbart, Fox, and the others who leapt at the bait. It could also frame a way overdue, exhaustive examination of what "mainstream media" has devolved into every time it's had a chance to confront racism much less third-rate, one-sided propaganda posing as news.
(Btw, anybody remember the ruckus the Obama administration raised when they announced, correctly, bravely, and brilliantly, that Fox wasn't a news organization, so they were going to treat it like what it really was? Remember how "mainstream media" gathered round the Fox dogs to ensure their right to keep hunting?)
I'm betting a Sherrod lawsuit would never get as far as a trial. Why? Because a whole bunch of defendants would throw money, jobs, and maybe even small islands at Ms. Sherrod to shut it down.
Still, the possibilities for the public discourse it might inspire are, well, intoxicating. I'm staying tuned.
[PS-Note to Maureen Dowd: You're forgiven for bitin offa my analysis w/o attribution.]