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Kicking the Race Can Down the Road

The Other Side of the Tracks: A Socially Speaking commentary

July 27, 2010

By Perry Redd

I can’t imagine too many people in America have missed the developments around the Shirley Sherrod incident over the past two weeks.  The hopes are that we’ve put the issue to rest and it won’t happen again…NOT!  I shall happen again—and again, and again and again.  The fact that we failed to address this issue from the top down means that it got stuck somewhere between the bottom and the middle; which means that it has room to rise.  With the several apologies and many denials, there are a few things that still bother me about the Shirley Sherrod controversy.

Everyone agrees in the “trust, but verify” principle of journalism which obviously the NAACP and the White House failed to subscribe to.  But aside from the failure to verify the source (Andrew Breitbart) of the allegation [in this case, racism], there were substantial errors that demonstrate that we have a systemic way of doing business that favors those in positions of power and privilege.

Shirley Sherrod, the former Georgia director of Rural Development, said she received a phone call from the USDA‘s deputy undersecretary Cheryl Cook on Monday, July 19th while she was in a car. Cook told her that the White House wanted her to call it quits.  “They called me twice,” Sherrod told the Associated Press. “The last time they asked me to pull over the side of the road and submit my resignation on my Blackberry, and that’s what I did.”

I have to ask, why didn’t Ag Secretary, Tom Vilsack call the White House prior to making his statement of support of her firing.  Why wasn’t his undersecretary Cook fired for making such a grave error?  You recall how White House Social Secretary Desiree Rogers was canned in the Salahi incident?  Lessons learned?  I dare say not…they conducted an investigation and still fired her though the Secret Service admitted that they “dropped the ball.”  But at least they conducted an investigation…

Then I have to ask, why weren’t procedures of due processed followed?  Now that I think about it, due process didn’t apply to Van Jones, President Obama’s special adviser for green jobs to the White House Council on Environmental Quality. No place made for one to defend against the allegations.  My suspicion is that due process doesn’t apply to black folks.

Rogers and Jones were fired with no witnesses called in their defense.  Sherrod did have someone to vouch for her.  The white, male farmer whom she was accused of discriminating against and more importantly, the tape.  You know what the problem was?  What she said wasn’t good enough.  She had to be validated by a white person before she could be believed.  They had to go interview the farmer.  No, I’m glad they did, but why should they have had to?

If, like Breitbart contends, the issue is about someone being a past racist, then firing Sherrod meant that the late Sen. Robert Byrd should never have gotten into Congress.  He was a Grand Cyclops in the Klan prior to becoming a federal employee.  Who rushed to fire her?  Is there a different set of rules for whites that don’t apply to blacks?  Appears so…and it always has.

The issue or racial inequalities are real and prevalent.  They need solving.  President Obama, failing to seize the opportunity to address them, only leaves them out there to re-occur.  Election season is a beast within itself.  It is because of election season that he won’t touch it with a ten foot pole, effectively, kicking the proverbial “can down the road.”  You can’t act like it doesn’t exist.  You can’t act like it’ll go away or that it will fix itself.  As long as we continue to kick the can down the road, we’ll never solve the problem of race in America.

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