Prejudice And The White Farmer Epiphany
Two wrongs don’t make anything right. That’s been a golden rule that has been said to just about everyone at least a hundred times in the average life span. Just because something wrong happens to you doesn’t make it okay to do something wrong back. It will solve nothing and will not set anything straight. Nothing that is, except for race.
Time and time again I have received comments from people saying that black people are just as racist to white people as white people are racist to black people. I have to disagree with that statement. Generally speaking the black community is not in a position to deny the white community anything close to the way the white community can deny the black community. For every dollar the white community controls the black community controls something like two cents. Compared to the black community the white community controls five thousand percent more wealth than the black community. The white community controls far more jobs than the black community. The black community does not have the ability to deny the white community much of anything. Therefore, I hardly think the black community is in a position to exercise much racism against the white community.
What I think people mean is that black people are just as prejudice to white people as white people are prejudice to black people. If all things were equal, you would probably have white people complaining about blacks denying them services or products or opportunities just as much as black people complain about the denial of services, products, and opportunities from white people.
But things are far from equal and therefore we live in circumstances that find an entire host of disparities between the two communities. A lot of people want to justify this disparity with the claims that black people would do it if black people had the chance. So these people believe prejudice and racial preferences is just a natural condition of being human and there is nothing immoral or unethical about our racial status quo.
I disrespectfully disagree. Yes, it is true that we have prejudices. But we have the ability to look beyond prejudices to see another individual for who they are. I might think that white people are more prejudice than black people. But if I come across a white person that I never met before I understand we have a clean slate to start a relationship. I don’t stick my hand out to shake someone’s hand thinking that they are going to discriminate against me. I shake another person’s hand hoping for the best. I like to think that I do not allow my prejudices to dictate how I interact and treat other people. I would like to think that other people learn to do the same.
Days after the NAACP clashed with segments of the tea party organization over allegations of racism, a twenty four year old video surfaced showing Agriculture Department official Shirley Sherrod standing at a podium telling a story to an audience about how she, a black woman, was tempted to withhold help from a white farmer facing bankruptcy. Ms. Sherrod thought that the white farmer was too big for his britches and had made an initial decision not to help the man as much as she could have. When the white man came to her nonprofit agency for help, and not any government agency, she could not help but think about all the black farmers that had lost their farms because some white person didn’t feel that the need to help black people. At least that was her initial response.
Ms. Sherrod appeared to revel in retelling the story about the white farmer. I saw the video clip for myself. And a lot of people who have an interest in justifying prejudice and making people in the black community appear just as prejudiced as their white counterparts would stop the clip right there as if proof to support their position that there is deep prejudice on both sides of the racial divide.
But there is more to that video clip. Ms. Sherrod went on to say that that she had an epiphany. Ms. Sherrod explained that she started to look beyond the color of the farmer’s skin. She admitted that she learned to see that she didn’t have a white farmer looking for help to save his farm. Ms. Sherrod learned to see a man needing help saving his farm. It wasn’t a matter of race. She learned that two wrongs would never make what she was feeling right. She put her prejudice aside to help another person. And to support her contention that she did help that farmer, Roger and Eloise Spooner, the white farmer and his wife, confirmed that Ms. Sherrod helped save their five hundred acre family farm.
As a black woman that admitted her moment of prejudice in a video clip, Ms. Sherrod is being crucified. People with an interest in stoking the fires on issues of race are pointing fingers and demanding blood. Ms. Sherrod was asked to resign from her position in Georgia by USDA Deputy Under Secretary Cheryl Cook under orders by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. There was no opportunity for this black woman to redeem herself for her crime of thinking about not helping a white farmer to the full extent of her ability.
It’s too bad Ms. Sherrod wasn’t somebody like Senator Robert Byrd. Mr. Byrd admitted being a member of the ku klux klan, arguably one of the most prejudiced and racist organization in the history of man. But that didn’t keep people from celebrating his life and his achievements. Mr. Byrd had his epiphany and people are ready to accept that at face value. But then again, holding fast to Mr. Byrd’s past mistakes is no way to prove that black people are just as prejudice as white people.