Shirley Sherrod and Race: Why the Obama Administration’s Fear of Race and Class is Driving Away Their Core Constituency


Someone in the White House called Ms. Sherrod on her Blackberry, told her to pull over to the side of the road, and fired her.
A conservative blogger cut and pasted 2 1/2 minutes of a magnificent 43 minute speech and posted it on the internet. The reaction of the White House was not to review the entire speech, not to speak with Ms. Sherrod, not to blast the blogger and praise Ms. Sherrod, but to act out of fear.
Fear of race drove the political gurus in the White House to fire a women who has devoted her life to the poor and downtrodden. The speech describes a journey of a women who saw white racists in Georgia kill her father, a journey from an angry bitter woman who came to understand the conflict is not black versus white, but the “haves” and the “have-nots” regardless of race.
Race is explosive. It discomfits whites, it touches basic feelings that many fear and it scares the White House policy wonks. Obama has tried as hard as he can not to be perceived  as a black president. Issues of race are not on a back burner, they are in cold storage.
Low pupil achievement is closely tied to poverty:  race, class and poverty are inexorably intertwined.
The major civil rights organizations, the NAACP and the National Urban League (NUL) have condenmed the Obama/Duncan blueprint, condemned might be mild a term, shredded is a better description.
The President tried to rescue his polices with a lame speech to the NUL convention.
An elitist Secretary of Education played with other peoples children for six years in Chicago, without any evidence of success, and now is spending billions on “reforms” that will also not impact student achievement.
David Tyack in his masterful, seminal essay on school reform, “Tinkering Toward Utopia,” tells us that unless reforms are embedded, welcomed, accepted by the practitioners and communities, they are doomed to failure.
No Child Left Behind, the Race to the Top, the Obama/Duncan blueprint will be deposited in the dustbin of history, the damage may take years or decades to correct.
The firing of all the teachers in a long time low achieving school, Central Falls High School in Rhode Island was lauded by the President. When Joe Biden praised the action in front of Randi Weingarten she publicly challenged him and underlined the increasing chilly atmosphere between teachers, their unions and the administration.
The strategy: marginalize teacher unions by requiring the creation of (non-unionized) charter schools, tying teacher evaluation and salary to test scores and increasing the drumbeat of the “problem is (still undefined) ‘bad’ teachers”. Don’t blame poverty, don’t blame centuries of discrimination, don’t blame the worst
economy since the Great Depression, blame teachers.
The way to “fix” our schools is not to reduce staggerly high unemployment rates, foreclosures, crime and gang violence, it’s to siddle up to Fox and the right wing bigots. 
The termination of 165 and the warning of 700 plus teachers (out of 4,300) in Washington DC under the new IMPACT teacher evaluation plan only further alienates the national teaching force of 3 million plus.  Using student reading/math test scores to evaluate teachers will make a psychiametrican gag. The Washinton Teachers Union announced it will challenge the firings, I would love to stand in front of an arbitrator, put expert witnesses on the stand, and blow up the entire plan.
Virtually all of the children in the 5% “persistently lowest achieving schools” are children of color and children of immigrants, children of the poor, schools in poor neighborhoods, poor housing, high unemployment, frequently absent medical care.
The Obama-ites fear race and fear class. Ostrich-like they claim that firing the “bad” teachers will cure all. A black president in a white nation fears racial issues, He fears that issues of race, class and poverty, will sidetrack him from his national agenda. He fears that distrustful whites will see confronting racially charged issues as bias.
The liberal left and left of center, the base ofhis  support are drifting away.
When he blew up the teacher jobs bill in the Senate he sent another message to teachers. My policies, my Blueprint is more important than your jobs.
His fear of confronting what is staring him in the face may very well be his Achilles heel. When Ms. Sherrod did not jump at his offer of another job, but instead made the talk show rounds she frightened the White House.
Think I’m going to start answering my daily texts/ e-mails from Barrack and his minions and show my displeasure, three million teachers moving from disappointment, to dismay to being just plain pissed off.

2 responses to “Shirley Sherrod and Race: Why the Obama Administration’s Fear of Race and Class is Driving Away Their Core Constituency

  1. Philip Nobile

    RttT is like Prohibition, a high-minded political solution for a national problem doomed to failure. The new social demon is bad teachers
    (hardly ever atrocious principals) with tenure
    (meaning only a right to a fair hearing before being fired). Obama, you could have been
    an education President ..


  2. Glad your back – missed your posts.


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