Dear Southern Poverty Law

Dear Southern Poverty Law,

You guys know I love you.  I think you guys do great work.  I, too, hate extremist groups.  But, seriously, Andrew Breitbart is Josef Goebbles?  If you guys are confused as to where I am at, check out the blog about Shirley Sherrod and the Right: A Day That Will Live in Infamy posted by Mark Potok.  It’s right there on your site.  You guys even posted the link on your Facebook page.  Come on, guys, this seems to me like the type of talk we are trying to avoid in having an open discussion on racism.  I admit that the whole situation was improperly handled.

The media, and not just Breitbart, jumped on the band wagon.  Yes, Fox News harped on the story over and over and over again.  It’s what Fox News does.  But to say “miserable excuses for journalists” just seems to fan the flames of hate.  HateWatch is starting to become what it is supposed to prevent, hate.  You guys know better.  Southern Poverty Law Center was built to keep this from happening.

I’m not saying we all aren’t getting that way.  Those of us who hate the increase in hate groups are all getting this way.  Yeah, the Radical Right is bad.  Yes, the Radical Left is just as bad.  “Hate Whitey for being white.”  “Hate that (n-word) because he’s been cursed by God.”  It’s bad out there right now.  We need groups like Southern Poverty Law to keep their cool.

When we don’t keep our cool we have what happened this week.  A woman whose crime was admitting she, too, suffered from racism found herself in the middle of a firestorm.  Ms. Sherrod’s words in the video show what she learned.  “It’s about poor.”  Where are we as a nation if we cannot, and will not, allow people to speak openly about learning from their own racist feelings.

Admit it, you too have had that moment where you saw someone of a different color and judge them.  You saw a black teen and thought he might be after your purse instead of the hardworking young man trying to support his family after his father has run off.  You saw the man of Mexican descent and saw the help instead of the Congressman who is a farmer fresh in from his fields.  You saw an Asian and thought they were smart just because they were Asian and asked them to help you with your computer problems.  It happens to all of us.  What we cannot do is allow those feelings to fester.  We must do what Ms. Sherrod claims she has done – and unless I find proof otherwise I will believe her – and learn from our thoughts.

Racism isn’t just hating someone for the color of their skin.  If that was all racism was it would be easy to fix.  Make everyone wear glasses that get rid of skin color.  No, racism is about not understanding someone else.  It is not understanding your Muslim neighbors’ beliefs and believing he is a terrorist just because he goes to a mosque.  It’s thinking that your Mexican neighbor is here illegally because they don’t speak English, never guessing their family was here long before this land belonged to the US.  It’s thinking all “blacks” are lazy and live off welfare.  Hate to tell you this, but a good portion of “whites” feel just as entitled to welfare checks.  Racism overreacting to a video that is obviously taken out of context and claiming someone is racist without listening to their words.  It’s calling for someone’s firing without all of the facts.

Racism is also the person who fires someone on a cell phone (while she’s driving), and then insists on a text resignation without the facts.  (Well, she’s black so she must be racist.)  Racism is a president who allows this to happen and responses with “We stand by the firing” in an attempt to look as though he doesn’t support racists.  And I hate to disagree with a certain WashPo columnist, but racism is cowardice.  It is an act of cowardice not to stand up to racism, and it puts you on the same level as the racists.

Do yourself a favor.  Go over to the NAACP’s website and check out the entire speech.  Maybe, just maybe, what we witnesses was what we need in this country.  We need to discuss race openly.  Those of you who are Christian will perhaps see what you call the Grace of God in Ms. Sherrod’s statements.  Comment section is below.  What did you think about the full speech?  About Ms. Sherrod’s comments about the lawyer?  What about what she said about her work?  “Need to work to help poor people.  Those that don’t have access the way others have.”  How about the indentured servants in her speech?

And, Southern Poverty Law Center, it doesn’t help when you guys use words that lit a fire in people.  It doesn’t help when you get in the mud.  Take the high road.  Please?  I’d really like to think my books about racism are going to be a retrospective here soon.  Besides, I’d like to not have multiple posts in the same week on racism.  I do have a book to promote here.  Thanks, you guys.

-Amanda Nicole Trisdale

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