Saturday, July 24, 2010

Shirley Sherrod & To Kill a Mockingbird

While not all conservatives had access to the real story like Breitbart might have, I'm wondering if, when he scoured the tapes to edit them, he might have been incensed at the real message in Shirley Sherrod's speech: that someone grew past their racial hatred to realize they are the same as the hated other, and worse, that a black person was in a position to feel sorry for and help a white and the whites wanted and were grateful for it.

The last time I heard a story like this was TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD.

If you haven't read the book or seen the movie, a black man is accused of raping and beating a young white woman.

It becomes clear at the trial though that she was lonely,and was constantly asking the black guy to do chores around her house, which he did for free. Then when they were alone, she finally came on to him, but rather than kiss or have sex with her, he ran away.

Her father saw her advances through the window and beat her after the black man left.

It should have been clear to the jury that the black man couldn't have choked and punched the girl since he had one useless, deformed arm.

But the black man made a fatal mistake on the stand: when asked why he did the chores for free, he said he felt sorry for her.

And that struck at the jury's racist pride--they convicted him.

So it was with the Shirley Sherrod story.

Breitbart and Fox News peddled a story that fit the prejudices of their conservative audience: if a black person had any power, they would use it to harm or withhold help from whites (just as the conservatives know they would do themselves to blacks, Latinos, Muslims, gays, and others in that position).

But more outrageous to them than her imagined offense was the real one: her racism melted, she saw some white farmers as more like her own family than not, did everything in her power to help them, and they were grateful.

Maybe more offensive to them than that was she was in the position of power and the whites in need, was that her actions reminded conservatives why they are dying.

Not just through legislation and the Civil Rights movement, but slowly a person or family at a time, racial fear and hatred are being chipped away, until only the most hateful and ignorant hang on to it, like their favorite doll or teddy bear from childhood.

And their power will be dead when black and white folks alike can look at them and not feel fear or hatred, but simply sorry for them, like we would for a Boo Radley in our own family we were trying to draw out of his shell.

We aren't quite there yet though when the NAACP and the president of the United States still jump when our disturbed cousins say so, and abandon their posts as our Atticus Finches.

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