OSU Navigation Bar

The Ohio State University

The Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity

Rising above the blame: Politics, race and the “racial stalemate” | Race-Talk | 213

Rising above the blame: Politics, race and the “racial stalemate”

Filed under: African Americans,Featured,Politics |

President Obama’s 2008 “A More Perfect Union” speech spoke of a country stuck in “a racial stalemate”: stuck in that place “for years”.  Yet, in 2010 we are still cemented there.  In “Shirley Sherrod: ‘Where are we headed?”, a July 22, 2010 interview conducted by PostPartisian’s Jonathan Capehart, Sherrod says why.

She thinks the President has a responsibility to the country to find a process that would make it easier for the issue of race to be addressed.  Mrs. Sherrod is not saying that he has to only deal with AA issues.  However, she is saying that under the first African American President, we have a perfect opportunity for progress.  “If we don’t get this together” she says, “if we don’t figure this out in this country, where are we headed?”

The saga of her journey has been both heartbreaking and inspiring.  The country saw an individual whose approach to race and racism was tempered, calm and rational. She turned the anger, pain, and humiliation of her father’s death, at the hands of a white racist, into an opportunity for growth and activism for all poor people.

In Capehart’s interview, she said her concern stems from the knowledge that the country is becoming more ethnically diverse and we should begin to deal with this fact.  Mrs. Sherrod thinks we should prepare ourselves now for that day because not everyone will think like her.

“The Gray and the Brown: The Generational Mismatch”, Ron Brownstein’s July 4th’ National Journal online article goes further.   His research supports her view that we are headed for problems or a “clash” but is more specific about what type of clash, who is going to cause it and why.   Unfortunately, diminished resources are going to be the cause.  Brownstein says, demographer William Frey of the Brookings Institution is predicting that children of minorities will make up “more than two-fifths of all children under 18” and will make up the majority of “all American children by as soon as 2023”.

On the other hand, the majority of older white Americans will be going into retirement and that segment of the population is also rapidly expanding.  However, this portion of the demographic will decline rather slowly over the coming decades.  The growth of this “Baby Boomer Generation” will be about “nearly two-thirds” of the American population by the time the 2040s roll around. Both of these groups have differing and divergent needs and the tension can already be seen with the manifestation of Arizona’s new immigration law.

The debacle that was engendered by a Conservative blogger might, in the end, be the best thing that happened to this country lately with regards to race.  His motive was to discredit the NAACP and the Obama Administration by using Shirley Sherrod as a pawn in his cynical and nefarious game.  Instead, what his effort brought us was the first genuine opportunity in a long time to steady our collective selves and deal with the scourge of racism that has infected this country for far too long.

The full speech about her journey to redemption showed she learned something, which shaped her life of service and activism: she learned empathy, how to listen and to really hear. By stopping the farmer and his family from losing their ranch she found the answer to all the difficult questions, which had plagued her since her father’s murder at the hands of a white farmer.

Shirley Sherrod realized that her mission in life was not only to help black farmers who were discriminated against and murdered at the hands of whites. The farmer’s problems made her realize that many white farmers in the South were discriminated against for being poor.  She came to understand the struggles they all had in common was poverty.

The time has long passed to stop fighting old racial wars.  Race and racism in our society is a reality but is being used, as a political wedge to keep us trapped in  racial stalemates, by the powerful forces in this country.  We have to harness our power and push back not as, BP’s chairman’s, powerless “small people” who are mere pawns in some cynical, high level, corporate game but as empowered masses who need to see positive change enacted.   A united and fortified front can overcome the corruption and general malaise that has captured our Government.

We are all in this together.  President Obama cannot do it alone.   Each of us should learn to work and live together by addressing and confronting the issues of race and racism so we can get to the many problems that need solving.  Now is the time.  Like Sherrod, we all must rise above blame, the politics of race and the “racial stalemate” in order to prepare for what is to come.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>