After the 2008 election our nation seemed to be in a position to have a bold, honest conversation about race relations. Attorney General Eric Holder called Americans cowardly for not having that conversation. However, in response to racially provocative incidents our leaders in Washington have substituted beer and sacrificial offerings for that conversation.
Shirley “Scapegoat” Sherrod is the latest victim of this administration’s clumsy attempt to avoid that conversation. Caught between a rock and hypocrisy for dismissing the clearest voter intimidation case in decades, the administration needed to set an example. (Shame on the administration for dismissing the usefulness of Fox News and conservative bloggers.)
Sadly, Ms. Sherrod’s dismissal wasn’t based on racism. It was due to her powerless political position in life. She doesn’t break bread with Henry Gates and probably isn’t a card-carrying member of the New Black Panther Party. By Beltway standards she represents the perfect scapegoat: politically irrelevant.
The truth is no one in Washington wants to have a bold conversation about race. Americans aren’t cowards. We are realists and we know how the Washington card game for power is played. We know which card is the trump card. Any honest conversation about race might end the necessity of playing that card. And politicians believe that if it can’t be played, they lose.
Jeff Sural is an attorney working in Washington, D.C.