Note: This is one of those old posts that is getting new life thanks to public events. If you haven’t read Ta’heisi Coates’ “Fear of A Black President” by now then you’re obviously not on black(nerd)twitter. This was written contemporaneously of the Sherrod shame (7/21/10). I offer it only as a counterpoint to readings of Coates as too harsh on Obama. That ain’t harsh. This is bitter, bitter harshness.
There are three groups for whom I am an unabashed sucker. If the issue concerns children, the defenseless or a black woman? I am not the enemy you want to have.
I admit, freely, that my storied mediation skills and love’o’logic become compromised by emotion when children, those with no means of defending themselves or black women are being targeted.
Thus, I find myself in a strange position today as the news is saturated with the character assassination of Shirley Sherrod.
I am too exhausted by it all to write a crib sheet of the events, not that you need one. Even if you don’t know this story, you know the story.
It is the story where disreputable yellow journalists manipulate fears grounded in racism to target and vilify a person of color. In this instance it is Fox News, the NAACP, video manipulation and Ms. Sherrod.
There, all caught up.
Now let’s get it done and over with.
I am angry, beyond reason, with President Barack Obama and his White House.
This is from the person who jumped on the train when President Obama was barely Senator Obama. Me, the person who donated money she did not have and dragged her poor mother to a stranger’s home to join the campaign.
This is from the person who stood in below freezing weather with an infected, throbbing, impacted molar that hurt more than childbirth to watch Mr. Obama take the oath that made him President.
But, again, I have my line in the sand.
Don’t f*ck with sisters or the defenseless. Ms. Sherrod is both.
And Mr. President? He is, in this instance, a punk. And a punk is second only to a bully on my list of eternal n’er-do-wells.
I get up every morning and pray to not be a punk that day. I finger my all catholic saints bracelet and meditate on not being a punk. I beg the Universal Power for the courage to defend the defenseless, the heart to counsel the seeking, to comfort the ailing, to help the needy.
When presented with a doctored tape from a media outlet with a documented history of doctoring information for the sole purpose of flaming racial hatred Mr. President did not second guess the messenger.
No, he lynched the accused witch.<—–punk
Of all people to know better, the man who has watched Fox News assassinate the character of his dead mother should maybe have thought to do just that: known the facts before acting.
But that would not have been politically expedient. Throwing a woman with no history of what she was being accused of under the bus was easier and cleaner…if you are a punk.
The problem is what the problem always is: the truth.
The truth is Ms. Sherrod is of a generation who had every life experience and reason to hate but, like many — indeed most — of her generation she chose not to. Not only did she own up to her very human feelings of fear and discomfort; not only did she overcome those feelings; but she went on to actively work against the institutionalization of those very human feelings of race-based fear.
Ms. Sherrod was the most unlikely of choices for a racist demagogue.
But, she was a defenseless black woman. She lacked political power, high-powered attorneys, a genius team of Internet aficionados to counter the attack against her reputation, her name and her livelihood.
A working class woman — the heart of America’s fabled “hard-working American” narrative — was singled out and undermined simply because she is black and lacks the power to defend herself.
If that person, that woman, that American does not deserve the benefit of the doubt from my President? Then he’s close to not being any President of mine.
If the choice is making history, changing the world, turning the tide of a great nation in decline or defending the weak, the defenseless, the black women who have so pitifully few champions?
I’ll choose the latter because you can’t save this country if you aren’t defending people like Ms. Sherrod.