Wednesday, July 21, 2010

What's worse, Right Wing Lies or Liberal Fears?

By Tracie Powell

The only thing worse than right-wing conservatives who lie, mislead and consistently play the race card are liberals who jump to wrong-headed conclusions.

Such is the case in this week’s saga of Shirley Sherrod.

Sherrod is the former USDA employee who was fired after conservatives, including those over at Fox News, aired an edited video clip of her speaking at a NAACP event in March about an experience that happened 20 years ago. First publicized by right-wing zealot Andrew Brietbart, the video clip duped many – including the NAACP – into believing Sherrod had used her position of authority to hurt a white farmer in Georgia, when in fact she simply chronicled a very powerful and personal journey of transcending race in America when helping a white Georgia farmer two decades ago.

That white farmer and his wife were first to publicly praise Sherrod for helping them save their farm.

As a child of the South, having been born and raised in Georgia, I can state with authority that life is viewed through a racial lens of black and white. My parents, both black, had me bussed to a mostly-white high school because they believed - as many did in years past and some still do now - that white meant better: Better teachers, better books, better future. That’s all Sherrod was saying. She sent a white farmer to a white lawyer, thinking “his own kind would take care of him.” I don’t anticipate Brietbart, anyone at Fox News, few in the mainstream media or even a certain someone inhabiting the White House to relate to the invaluable lessons Sherrod spoke of or my upbringing; such thinking is a distinctly Southern thing and those folks probably wouldn’t understand.

Richard Cohen has an excellent piece in today’s Washington Post about the cowardice of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who fired Sherrod, and the Obama Administration, which supported the firing. What Cohen misses or glosses over, however, is the cowardice of right-wingers who continually seek to tear down the legacy of civil rights advances in this country. Conservatives, via a well-orchestrated media campaign (i.e. Fox, which for some inexplicable reason has the term “News” in its moniker) are even trying to rewrite the history and contributions of Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall as something less than…).

Furthermore, Cohen’s column misses the complicity of mainstream media outlets propagating conservative misinformation about Sherrod.

In fairness, even the NAACP jumped to the wrong conclusions when confronted with Breitbart’s contrived video clip; the organization later issued a formal apology to Sherrod for calling her “shameful” without having all the facts.

Vilsack also owes Sherrod an apology that comes with a new job offer and a raise. He says he's reviewing the debacle, while Breitbart and conservative ideologues busy themselves with shifting the blame to the White House, which in turn, is trying to distance itself from the firestorm.

How mighty white of them. I do not use this term in the racial sense so much as I do to underscore the hypocrisy of them all.

What we do not need, however, is to hear from Obama on this issue, especially not before another midterm election. Save the reheated race speech, an apology or another beer summit and let’s leave healing race relations and helping the poor to the experts. You know, folks who have made it their life’s work to do so. People like Shirley Sherrod.

Oh wait. Sherrod is out of a job.

Tracie Powell is journalist and law student living in Washington, DC.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Gay Marriage: WWKD (What Would King Do)?

The president of the Los Angeles chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference has been speaking out in support of gay marriage. If you expect one of the country’s oldest equal rights organizations to stand behind one of its chapter presidentsm though, you’d be wrong.

The SCLC wants the Rev. Eric P. Lee fired.

National leaders recently summoned Lee to appear at the group’s Atlanta headquarters to explain his stance. If he failed to show, they said, he would be suspended and removed from his position, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Lee, an African American pastor who has headed the Los Angeles SCLC for the past two years, was an outspoken critic of Proposition 8, an amendment that banned same-sex marriage in California. Voters approved it in last November’s election, but the issue isn’t going away in California or any other place, as states are confronted with court cases and ballot initiatives.

Iowa’s state Supreme Court recently legalized same-sex marriage, while lawmakers in West Virginia are considering whether to ban it. This week, former President Bill Clinton — who signed the law that prohibits the federal government from recognizing gay marriage — said that he now supports gay marriage. And on Wednesday, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, indirectly raised the issue during Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s U.S. Supreme Court confirmation hearing.

Back in California, Lee continues to advocate in support of such unions.

It’s this kind of advocacy that is raising the ire of fellow clergy at the SCLC. Founded in 1957 in the wake of the Montgomery bus boycott, the organization took a neutral stance on Proposition 8.

Lee now finds himself fighting for more than just marriage equality: He’s also taking on what he views as the hypocrisy of the church (especially black churches) and discrimination, as well as a continued blurring of the line between church and state, he said.

“Any time you deny one group of people the rights and privileges that other groups enjoy, it is fundamentally and unequivocally a denial of their civil rights. That makes it a justice issue,” Lee said in a telephone interview from California. “Because of black people’s history of being oppressed and discriminated against in this country, and because of our legacy of fighting against those things, we have earned the right to be the moral authority on justice issues. In fact, we are obligated to speak out.”

To read the rest, click here.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Considering Coons and the GOP's Future

Following the election for a new Young Republican leader gave me flashbacks.

Fresh out of college and a tad naive on my first reporting job, a small-town politician invited me to go “coon hunting.”

I had NO idea what he was talking about.

Though I attended majority white schools in the South, my parents kept me pretty protected from a lot of that stuff, and I mainly traveled in a circle of academic achievers, friends from orchestra and band class, and those who attended church with me. My upbringing didn’t prepare me to talk about hunting of any kind with the Milledgeville, Ga., city attorney.

The official's invitation struck me as a little off — he was chuckling as we talked — but I was eager to develop sources so I agreed to join him on his next outing. Back at the office, I asked my white, male editor about killing raccoons, something I wasn’t keen on witnessing. Exactly what would it involve?

The editor, Don Schanche, turned red.

He banged his fist on the desk.

He let loose with ungentlemanly expletives, cursing loud enough to startle everyone in the newsroom. Then he stalked out.

Later, still angry but in a much-lowered voice, he explained that “coon hunting” had nothing to do with raccoons. He apologized, asked whether I was comfortable enough to continue working my city government beat, and cautioned me to keep my distance from City Attorney J.W. Morgan. (Of course I still remember the guy’s name,)

Morgan died three years ago, according to an obituary I found online. But he was vividly brought back to mind by the election of Audra Shays to head the Young Republican National Federation — an election in which the word “coon” played a part.

This being 2009, Shays has a Facebook page. On it, one of her online friends labeled President Obama a “terrorist” and expressed a need to take back the country from “all these mad coons.” To see her reply, zoom in on this screen shot. “You tell ‘em,” she wrote. Where she typed “lol,” that’s shorthand for “laugh out loud.”

Laugh out loud? She found that entertaining?

And now she is one of the elected faces of the party of Lincoln, the party with a national chairman, Michael Steele, who is black.

To continue reading, click here.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Truth About Abortion and Black America

I sat trying to figure out how I would cover law school costs this fall when my phone rang. It was a campaign worker with a reminder that Virginia voters had a Democratic primary election this week and I had yet to decide who would get my vote.

It was the typical campaign call, nothing really remarkable about it. The worker wanted to know if I planned to support a conservative — not Republican — candidate at the polls. “Are you African American?” she asked. I replied in the affirmative. “I know that many African American voters are conservative when it comes to social issues like abortion. Would you describe the candidate you plan to support as conservative on the issue of abortion?”

In recent years conservative political strategists have painted African Americans as being more opposed to abortion than the white population. They have cited numbers as high as 59 percent.

But a recent Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life poll found that 49 percent of black Americans — considered more religious than the U.S. population as a whole — favor keeping abortion legal in most or all cases; just 44 percent of black Americans want abortion to be illegal in most or all cases.

Experts say there is declining black support for conservative social policies like abortion. The reasons vary.

Christopher J. Metzler, an associate dean at Georgetown University who writes regularly on issues of race and politics, attributes the drop-off in support to pressing economic conditions that black Americans face.

The unemployment rate for African American workers is now at 14.9 percent, almost double the national average. “It’s just not one of our top issues,” said Metzler.

Please click here to read the rest, and please leave your thoughts. ~One

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Dialing Down the Sound of Fury

High-pitched conservative rhetoric seems to be even more shrill than usual lately; some even blame it for the recent slaying of Dr. George Tiller, the Kansas physician who performed late-term abortions and was gunned down at his church May 31.

Some Republicans are having second thoughts about the level of negative political rhetoric they have been spouting as of late. Former Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga. (1979-99), retrenched on what he recently said about Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor being a racist.

Sotomayor will be the first Latina on the high court if confirmed.

It’s about time foes dialed down their fury. Maybe Gingrich realizes that he is the one who came off looking like a racist when he attacked her; then again, maybe not. Regardless, Gingrich’s half-apology comes too late and the damage might already be done.

“No party has a monopoly on saying things that are offensive at times,” said Audrey A. Haynes, an associate professor of political science at The University of Georgia. “But there is general consensus that the Republican Party, thanks to its use of wordsmith practioners and marketing gurus, has done a much better job, at least in the past, of controlling the discourse, framing the political conflicts, and being much more aggressive than the Democrats have been.”

When President Obama campaigned for the Oval Office, he vowed to help change the climate of political dialogue in Washington and beyond. In light of recent events this past week, it seems that this is a promise he won’t be able to keep.

But not because he hasn’t tried.

It was Obama who chose to deliver the commencement address at the University of Notre Dame over historically black Morehouse College. He could have taken the easier path by going to Morehouse, where the first black president would likely have been lovingly welcomed with open arms; instead he went to Notre Dame where he was heckled during a speech that called for greater understanding and fair-mindedness on all sides of the abortion issue.

Click here to read the rest of the piece, and please leave a comment.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Supreme Court Nomination In Black and Brown

When Rush Limbaugh looks at President Obama and Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor, he sees a reverse racist nominated by “the greatest living example of a reverse racist.”

Other conservatives view Sotomayor as an affirmative action choice who lacks the intellectual heft for the high court. She’s someone, they say, who believes Latina judges are better than white male judges.

Liberals, on the other hand, herald Obama’s choice as a stroke of political genius and rejoice in the possibility of the first Hispanic female sitting on the bench.

Some political prognosticators speculate that Obama’s nomination of Sotomayor could lock up the Hispanic vote for Democrats for years to come.

But that’s inside baseball.

What I saw when Obama nominated Sotomayor, with Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. by his side, was something quite different: Power, and what it increasingly looks like in this country.

By 2050, there will be no outright majority of any one demographic group, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. But 236 million minorities — everyone except for non-Hispanic, single race whites — will be the majority.

The socio-political change such population shifts bring is already starting to manifest itself.

“Seeing Barack Obama and Sonia Sotomayor is more and more what power is going to look like in the future,” said Allert Brown-Gort, associate director of the Institute for Latino Studies at the University of Notre Dame. “That power, quite naturally, follows demographic changes to a certain extent, but let’s not fool ourselves. The full force of those changes won’t be felt if the laws and rules aren’t in place to let the changes happen.

“Just a couple of months ago they [lawyers and Supreme Court justices] were arguing over the 1965 Voting Rights Act and whether parts of it should be voided,” he said. “This shows us why we have to keep up the fight and can’t take anything for granted, while Obama’s announcement of Judge Sotomayor shows us what is at stake.”

Much attention has focused on the raw distrust between blacks and Hispanic immigrants. Whether it is a tug of war over jobs in New York and parts of the South or turf wars in Los Angeles, many black and brown people have been in a constant fight for the bottom for years.

Please click to read the rest of the story.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Voter ID: How Far Is Too Far?

With his signature May 5 on Georgia’s new voter identification law, Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue has set up a sure-fire showdown with the federal Department of Justice.

The Bush administration — which favored voter ID laws — was in charge the last time Georgia pushed through such controversial legislation.

This time around, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. is calling the shots, and Georgia has to win his approval for an even stricter law that it now wants.

If permitted, Georgia would become the second state (Arizona is the other) to require prospective voters to prove their U.S. citizenship; currently voters in Georgia need only check a box on a registration application affirming U.S. citizenship.

In 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a controversial voter ID law in Indiana, but that only led to more legal uncertainty for states.

Perdue and his supporters say stricter voter ID laws are necessary to combat voter fraud. Those who oppose it say the law has “xenophobic overtones” and maintain that it is a solution to a problem that does not exist. They add that the law would keep the poor, elderly and minorities away from the ballot box.

Perdue’s actions are part of the GOP’s efforts to put in place an array of new voting laws across the South.

For example:

• South Carolina legislators, for example, are arguing over a bill that requires voters to show valid government-issued identification at the polls. That recently prompted a walkout by several Democratic members led by the legislative black caucus.

Click to read the rest, and remember, comment and comment often. Thx