Black racism: A real problem, or pure politics?
Associated Press | 7/27/2010, 7:45 p.m.
Is black racism a real problem? Or is it pure politics?
Shirley Sherrod was dismissed from her Agriculture Department job because remarks she made about her dealings with a white farmer almost a quarter century ago were perceived as racist. She was offered her job back last Wednesday because a full viewing of that speech showed it to be a tale of racial reconciliation.
But put aside the furor and confusion over the employment of the black woman who headed the USDA’s rural development office in Georgia. The Sherrod affair brings to the fore a simmering debate over whether black racism is cause for concern in America under its first black president.
During the campaign, Barack Obama was forced to address the blistering racial remarks of his former pastor. Since then, there have been complaints that Obama presides over an administration that is racial, not post-racial — when he supported a black Harvard professor who was arrested by a white police officer, or when the Justice Department dismissed most charges against a group of black militants accused of intimidating voters.
“If the Justice Department is really not interested in pursuing cases against blacks who violate whites’ civil rights and only go after whites who violate blacks’ rights, that is a major problem,” says William Stogner, a 46-year-old telecommunications technician who lives in St. Louis.
Growing up in the 1970s, Stogner was often called “cracker” by black kids in his grandparents’ East St. Louis neighborhood. Last April, while walking to his car after a Tea Party rally, he says he heard the same epithet from a group of young black men. To Stogner, black and white racism are equivalent: “To me it’s bad no matter where it originates.”
But to some conservatives, there is something special about black racism: It is invisible in the liberal media, and perpetrated by the Obama administration. While white racism is highly publicized, they say, black racism gets a pass.
“The sheer hypocrisy is maddening to me, and is a terrible, terrible double standard,” said conservative radio host Mike Gallagher.
Andrew Breitbart clearly sees black racism as an issue. He’s the conservative blogger who posted the clip from Sherrod’s 1986 speech to an NAACP meeting that set off the contretemps. He said the NAACP, in accusing the Tea Party Movement of racism, was glossing over its own bigotry.
In the video, he wrote, “Sherrod’s racist tale is received by the NAACP audience with nodding approval and murmurs of recognition and agreement. Hardly the behavior of the group now holding itself up as the supreme judge of another group’s racial tolerance.”
To Sherrod, Breitbart was just playing his own racist card: He created “a racist thing that could unite even more the racist people out there,” she told the liberal website Media Matters.
Imani Perry, a professor at Princeton’s Center for African American Studies, said some conservatives are manipulating white fears for political advantage.
“I think many white Americans are fearful that with Obama in the White House, and the diversity in his appointments, that the racial balance of power is shifting. And that’s frightening both because people always are afraid to give up privilege, and because of the prospect of a black-and-brown backlash against a very ugly history,” Perry said.