What Sherrod Scandal Reveals About U.S. Race Relations

We're not doing great

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In the wake of USDA official Shirley Sherrod's firing over video of a racially charged speech, and then the backlash when it became clear that the video had been edited, the U.S. is having a bit of a mini-conversation about race. How are our race relations these days?

  • Obama Administration Not Leading on Race  The Atlantic's Ta-Nehisi Coates wonders why the administration of the first black president  defended the tea parties against racism charges but then fired Sherrod. "We have an administration that will contort itself to defend a movement whose convention speakers call for the reinstatement of the tools of segregation. That same administration will swiftly jettison an appointee, herself the victim of homegrown terrorism, for echoing the kind of message of redemption and personal responsibility that has become the president's hallmark on race."
  • Don't Just Blame the Politics  The Washington Post's Greg Sargent sighs: "The emerging media consensus this morning on the Shirley Sherrod mess is that it proves race remains a 'stumbling block' for Obama. Few, however, seem willing to explain why this is the case, or who it is that's trying to ensure that race continues to trip up the president. ... Obviously there's no excusing the White House's handling of this whole mess. ... But let's hope that more commentators are willing to acknowledge," he writes, that the problem goes far beyond the White House.
  • Right-Wing Media Pushing Race Agenda  The Washington Post's Eugene Robinson writes: "After the Shirley Sherrod episode, there's no longer any need to mince words: A cynical right-wing propaganda machine is peddling the poisonous fiction that when African Americans or other minorities reach positions of power, they seek some kind of revenge against whites."
  • Obama No Racial Unifier  "In just 18 months of the Obama administration," writes National Review's Victor Davis Hanson, racial discord is growing and relations seem to have been set back a generation. Black voters are galvanizing behind Obama at a time of rapidly falling support. White independents, in contrast, are leaving Obama in droves."
  • We're Just Not Ready  NBC News' First Read team concedes. "Are we mature enough to have a conversation about race? But even if Obama tries to tackle race during his presidency, is Washington mature enough to listen? Probably not when there are so many questioning whether the president was born in this country, when the NAACP is accusing the Tea Party of being racist, when a handful of "new" Black Panthers are on the prowl (who, btw, aren't really members of the actual Black Panthers AND who are about as relevant on the left as the John Birch Society is on the right), and when someone like Andrew Breitbart is so fixated on proving via a concerted campaign that somehow there is racial bias being practiced by this president or members of his administration (whether it’s ACORN, Sherrod, etc.)."
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