WHAT DOES RACISM MEAN! What exactly does racism mean? Who exactly has it? // link // print // previous // next //
TUESDAY, JULY 27, 2010
Eleven years later, he spills: Steve Benen was impressed with E. J. Dionnes column (click this). Here at THE HOWLER, we werent.
How things change if we wait long enough! E. J. has his shorts in a wad in the wake of the Sherrod mess. The fellow cant say strongly enough how wrong all the cowardice is. The mainstream media and the Obama administration must stop cowering before a right wing that has persistently forced its propaganda to be accepted as news, the fiery columnist says. And it isnt just the Sherrod matter! E. J. wants the world to know that this has gone on for years:
Its hard to be more dishonest. Eleven years later, E. J. pipes up with a key announcement: Al Gore never said he invented the Internet! But you may not know that, he angrily says, because the mainstream media kept reporting he had. Why did the mainstream press corps do that? It had been bludgeoned into taking seriously whatever sludge the far right [was] pumping into the political waters, E. J. excitedly thunders.
E. J. is basically right on his history, although he vastly understates the activist role his own paper played in the war against Gore. Ceci Connolly needed little help from anyone on the far right, although she (and others) sometimes took their dictation straight from the RNC. But then, E. J. also forgets his own role in this critical recent history. Its hard to be more dishonest.
Al Gore said he invented the Internet! The claim was invented in March 1999; it got twenty months of play after that, linked to two other press corps inventions. (Al Gore said he inspired Love Story! Al Gore said he discovered Love Canal!) The claim was churned again and againand again and again after that. Al Gore said he invented the Internet! Its the claim which sent Bush to the White House.
And guess what? In the twenty months from March 1999 through November 2000, Dionne never said boo about itnot a single word! Dionne was writing two columns per weekand the big coward just let it go. Al Gore said he invented the Internet? E. J. never said different!
Somehow, this twenty-month silence has slipped E. J.s mind. Do you mind if we rewrite his column?
People like E. J. could start to explain this critical bit of recent history. They could explain why they advanced that long series of bogus claims about Goreor why they didnt debunk those claims. But these folk are dishonest, right to the core.
Benen, please! Get off your ass!
Our search: We conducted our search through the Nexis archives. According to Nexis, Dionne never mentioned Love Canal or Love Story either. A vicious war ran for twenty straight months. Dionnewell-paid, well-positioned, well-pamperedquietly sat on his ass.
Eleven years later, the gentleman spills! Its hard to be more like a journalist.
WHAT DOES RACISM MEAN (permalink): Andrew Breitbarts sliming of Shirley Sherrod has touched off a fascinating, sprawling discussion. In the course of this discussion, we get to learn how people think about race and racism.
We were fascinated by this letter in Mondays Washington Post, written by an obviously well-meaning person. Quite correctly, the writer praises Sherrod. But we were struck by the highlighted passages:
In her full speech, Sherrod told a story that merits more attention than it has received. (For one long excerpt, see below.) But in what way did Shirley Sherrod acknowledge a struggle with internal racism? In what way did Sherrod say that she had reshaped her views to minimize that racism? (Does this mean that shes still in the grip of this racisma racism she has only minimized?)
This letter adds a pleasing air of melodrama to the story Sherrod told. But is this framework accurate?
Sorrywed have to say it isnt. We wouldnt say Sherrod was struggling with internal racism in the story she told. But then, were old enough to remember what racism isor at least, what it was in the past.
In the part of the speech which led to her firing, Sherrod said she thought a white farmer was talking down to hertrying to show me he was superior to meeven as he asked her for help, back in 1986. She said she hadnt appreciated his attitude; as a result, she said she gave him less than her fullest effort after this first meeting. (So I didn't give him the full force of what I could do.) She found a (white) lawyer who could help him. Initially, she left it at that.
Later, Sherrod came to believe that this farmers (white) lawyer was making little attempt to help himwas actively giving him lousy advice. So she went out and found a second lawyer, a lawyer who would help the farmer. Reading between the lines of the speech, it seems that Sherrod was surprised to see a white lawyer throw a poor white client under the bus, just as he might have done with a poor black client. Clearly, though, this experience seems to have reshaped Sherrods understanding of the role she herself should play in the world. (So, working with this farmer made me see that it's really about those who have versus those who don't. You know. And they could be black. They could be white. They could be Hispanic. And it made me realize then that I needed to work to help poor people, those who don't have access the way others have.)
Sherrods full speech deserves more attention than it has receiveda great deal more attention, in fact. But in what way did Sherrod say or suggest that she had struggled with internal racism? That she had reshaped her views to minimize that racism? If an individual talks down to you and you dont like it, does that mean youre gripped by racism? Is it racism if you dont give that person your fullest effort?
Actually, no, it isnt except in a world which has race and racism up the keister, a world in which every interaction between blacks and whites has to be fraught, by rule of law, with this exciting, sometimes useful disease.
What is racism? Did Sherrod have it? Is she still in its grip, despite her efforts at minimization? Wed say no to those last two questions, but that may be because were so old that we can remember was racism actually isor at least, what racism used to be, before we liberals began to insist that its under every bed.
That letter-writer was well-intentioned. Wed be inclined to be less generous with some of our fiery liberal leaders. Our leaders have said some foolish things in the week since this matter hit. Is this effective? We have no idea, although we strongly doubt it. But is it really the best we can do? Well continue this rumination tomorrow, giving ourselves one more day to get our own claims in order.
Yes, were dumping the stuff we prepared about Howard Dean and Ed Schultz.
What racism used to mean: In her speech, Sherrod helps us recall what racism used to look like. This part of her speech has received remarkably little attention. As she starts, she is discussing her father, who was killed in a racial incident in 1965, when she was 17:
God is goodand bullshit isnt. Its sad to see the way our big news orgs have failed to relate this fuller story.
Racism doesnt have to mean killing, of course. But what exactly does racism mean? And who exactly has it? In our view, our side has said a lot of dumb things in the week since that edited tape appeared. Is this really all we have? Do we really think this is effective?