Saturday, July 24, 2010

The race problem

I don't often find myself in complete agreement with one of Maureen Dowd's columns. In fact, most of the time I find her pretty annoying, especially when she writes about the Clintons, which she often does. She seems to have an unreasoning hatred of the pair, not unlike many in the right-wing noise machine. She can be particularly shrill and unreasonable when writing about Hillary, so when I see that the Clintons are the subjects of one of her columns, I manage my blood pressure by simply not reading it. But today, I have to admit she has a good point and I can only hope that the current occupant of the White House might pay attention to her.

The theme of today's column is the White House's race problem and her point is that Obama needs more black people in the White House. Specifically, he needs more black people from the South, people who have experienced the worst of racism and have overcome it. In other words, he needs people like Shirley Sherrod.

Obama's administration's handling of l'affaire Sherrod was abyssmal, scandalous, and downright stupid. Where were the people who could have warned him that this was a set-up? Apparently, some people tried to, but their messages were either not received or were ignored.

President Obama was born and grew up mostly in Hawaii, the most multi-racial of states and probably the most lacking in the discrimination that has been and still is so rampant in so many of the states on the mainland. He doesn't have the personal experience of discrimination that is so much a part of the psyche of any black person - or for that matter, any white person - who grew up in the South. Although he has African-Americans in his administration, they are mostly not from the South and they can't understand in their bones what it is like to have come up from slavery. I think he needs that perspective. Perhaps if he had had it this week, he wouldn't have been so quick to judge and so quick to make an unnecessary misstep that has cost him credibility and has detracted from the successes of the week, such as the final passage of the financial reform bill and (finally!) the extension of unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed.

Sherrod has told interviewers that she thinks Obama should visit South Georgia and talk to some "regular folks" and see how they live. I think she is right in this as she has been in so much else and I hope the president will take her advice.

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