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Racism is nowhere and everywhere, and both sides are wrong

July 24, 2010

People who aren't particularly (note the word particularly) racist don't talk much about their potential for racism one way or another. Those who feel the need, however, to say, in no uncertain terms, that they are not racist, often are. And the louder they deny any racism - well, you get the drift.

At least that's been my experience; yours may be different. And there are exceptions. Some skinheads take delight in explaining to any and all just how racist they are. And, of course, if you are accused of racism it is only natural to deny the charge.

But here's the thing: If Nixon hadn't been a crook, there would have been no need to go on national television and tell America that he wasn't.

People who aren't crooks don't need to explain themselves. Their actions are pretty clear. There is no smoke coming from their persons that require them to deny the existence of fire.

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But we need to keep this in mind too: Everyone on this planet is racist to some degree and we need to understand that and get over it if we wish to move forward.

Several weeks ago I met an engaging fellow who served at the Plattsburgh, N.Y., air base, which coincidentally where my mom and brother live. When I was enthusiastically relating his story, I had to choke back that almost instinctive phrase that we crackers use: "He was a black guy."

That tidbit of information is no more relevant than hair color or shoe style. Yet we always seem to work it in. There are a couple of sinister undertones to this. One is the "Hey look at me, I'm so unracist that I was talking to a black fellow" position and the other is the "He was normal AND he was black" inference.

There might be a kinder way of looking at the "black guy" comment, and that's the fact that we've just gotten in the habit of it because we all - you, me, everyone - notice race. We tend to hang with our own race and we take notice of those who fall outside of our clan.

I don't think that this is any great offense. We pay attention to race. We have our opinions and our prejudices and if, say, whites think blacks are too loud at the pool and blacks think whites are too snippy at the salad bar, well, that's just part of life together on this planet. We have more serious spats with our in-laws; it's no cause for a race war.

So we return to that phrase, not "particularly" racist. The Matt Drudge wannabe who tried this week to make Shirley Sherrod into a black she-devil actually did us all a favor, because Sherrod might be one of the few people who has her head screwed on correctly concerning the inflammatory subject.

Sherrod was fired from the Department of Agriculture after conservative activist Andrew Breitbart - reacting to NAACP charges of elements of racism in the Tea Party - publicized a video in which she, as a volunteer aide worker 24 years ago, sent a white farmer to seek assistance from one of "his own kind."

Like much far-right propaganda, this sounded atrocious at first blush. But, like most far-right propaganda, it turns out that the comment was taken wildly out of context and that the intended message actually disproves the snake oil that the far-right is hoping to sell.

But that's politics. What the left wing did - firing her without knowing all the facts - was worse, because that action affected a woman's life.

The left has made its own bed by too often crying "racism" where none exists. I followed the case of an attorney many years ago who claimed that he lost his cases because the white judges were prejudiced. After watching him in court, even a cub reporter could tell you the truth: He was just a bad lawyer.

So when there's the slightest whiff of reverse racism, if that's the term, the left's own standards force it to jump, even at a factually depraved report produced by an Internet blogger.

The left sees racism everywhere; the right doesn't see it at all. Small wonder we can't make any progress.

To complete Sherrod's story, she related the incident with the white farmer in order to illustrate the struggle she felt in her own heart regarding race. After some honest self-inventory, she concluded that racism is a two-way street and that even though we have those feelings we need to overcome them if we want to help our fellow man and advance our civilization.

She changed her mind about the farmer and helped him out. The farmer's wife said this week that Sherrod is "a good friend. She's the one I give credit for helping us save our farm."

And yet - despite a heartfelt effort not to be particularly racist - Sherrod has become so much cannon fodder for those who are only interested in scoring political points and have nothing to contribute toward our national good.

So don't you wonder who had an easier time looking in the mirror this morning, Shirley Sherrod or Andrew Breitbart.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 6997, or by e-mail at timr@herald-mail.com">timr@herald-mail.com. Tune in to the Rowland Rant video at http://www.herald-mail.com, on antpod.com or on Antietam Cable's WCL-TV Channel 30 evenings at 6:30. New episodes are released every Wednesday.

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