Monday, July 26, 2010

Lessons from the Shirley Sherrod Incident

By Vanessa Jean Louis

After years of being a School Counselor in the inner city, I think one of the most important things I’ve learned, from some of my most challenging students, is that everyone has a need to be understood. At the heart of our emotional trauma and at the epicenter of externalized conflicts, is a deep rooted yearning for others to understand our perspectives. Ok, so, psychobabble aside, the last few days, I’ve watched the Shirley Sherrod debacle unfold, and although it’s a political arena full of adults, the same rules apply.

I’m not taking sides, because I can empathize with both sides. Indulge me a bit. At the core of Andrew Breitbart’s “exposé” was a deep seated pain at the idea that because he affiliates with the Tea Party movement that he is somehow this covert white supremacist operative clandestinely attempting to take this country back to the dark ages when Blacks weren’t afforded the same constitutional protections as White males. Excuse me, but that’s HIGHLY offensive to people who are primarily committed to fighting against what they feel are policies that are eroding our Constitution. Breitbart’s original intent was to prove a larger point which is, as we’ve seen with the recent Black Panther voter intimidators (who want to kill “cracker babies”), that there are nutcases on both sides.

In an inauspicious turn of events for Breitbart, but an auspicious one for Ms. Sherrod, we‘ve since discovered that the same benefit of the doubt that Breitbart expected from detractors, wasn’t afforded to Ms. Sherrod. Her words were blatantly taken out of context and she was wrongfully coerced into resigning. The White House and the NAACP should have done their due diligence, instead of letting the political tides move them as they wish. (Besides, we’re all guilty of this very same thing: Someone hurts our feelings or something we love dearly, and we start swinging, verbally, or physically, and we don’t care who gets hurt. So, first and foremost, let’s stop acting all aghast like we’ve never experienced a microcosm of this very same incident in our personal lives.)

We all need to just learn the art of respectful dissent. Even amongst ideological opponents, at the very least, let’s attempt to understand their perspectives. Let’s try to give one another the benefit of the doubt. The Tea Party Movement is against big government, and the NAACP doesn’t want the first “Black President” the target of irrationally emotive harangues from a movement that quite frankly, should have started long before Obama took office. Obama is NOT the first President guilty of deficit spending, signing constitutionally questionable legislation, and growing government beyond recognition.

The most frustrating thing for me, as a Black (Racially Conscious) Conservative Republican is having to deal with labels unfairly being tossed my way because I just don’t “co-sign” on every Liberal Democrat prescription for social maladies, or every Conservative talking point for that matter. Um, Hello? Yeah, you out there, I see the problems too, I just have a different perspective on the solutions.

Lastly, Ms. Sherrod has every right to be angry because she was clearly misrepresented by many in the media, something that the Tea Party Movement should empathize with. Moreover, I also honestly don’t believe Andrew Breitbart had any type of specific malfeasance towards Ms. Sherrod. In my humble opinion, I think he was just trying to passionately defend a movement he holds dear to his heart. Unfortunately, he used an innocent woman, who came into a racial “awakening” of her own, as a scapegoat.

In the entire video, Ms. Sherrod paints an honest picture of herself as someone who struggled with racial prejudices, but grew past them. “Color blind” rhetoric aside, we’ve all struggled with that very issue (amongst others), and getting to a place in our personal growth, where even in our differences we can tolerate, and yes, like Ms. Sherrod, even befriend prior foes, is a beautiful thing that should be CELEBRATED. Not enough emphasis is placed on that part of the story. So, I hope Ms. Sherrod gets her job back at the United States Department of Agriculture. I also hope we can all elevate the political dialogue a little higher then it’s been the last few weeks. *sigh*

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Vanessa Jean Louis better known as the “afroconservative”, has been working in the inner city as a school counselor for the last several years.She is a self-described “urban conservative” who believes in strong families, school choice vouchers, and fiscal policies that help lift people out of poverty-not perpetuate deleterious cycles of government dependence. Vanessa holds a Master’s degree from Fairleigh Dickinson University. She is currently working towards a second Master’s Degree in Political Economy.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Excellent recap from your thoughtful perspective.

My problem with Sherrod's speech is more troubling to me. She seems to have traded in her racism towards whites into a general socialism where all poor, white and black, are under the heel of the "Man". That viewpoint is particularly dangerous when held by a powerful (and growing more powerful every day under Obama) bureaucrat.

And that is where the attack on the Tea Party irks me. The harm done to all people by THIS administration with the institution of its czars, regulations, uncontrolled spending, healthcare programs and smaller things like lashing out at citizens is momentous.

"Good-hearted" programs like minimum wage particularly harms black employment prospects, local rent-control keeps good-clean apartments from being built due to the removal of profit for landlords (which limits housing for poor minorities and keeps apartments in the hands of connected renters), unions that keep out all willing workers, high taxes that keep capital from voluntarily combining to create new businesses, social security that takes money from minorities to fund the retirement of the wealthy (Milton Friedman in "Free To Choose" explains the insanity of this arrangement) and on an on.

Sherrod's devlopment from white hatred to class envy is equally as damaging for all US citizens.

Always look at the incentives created.

Last, let's even assume the Tea partiers are racist. OK, that may be the motivation. But what is the counter-argument to the policy they propose? That is never addressed when the charge of racism diverts the discussion.