what this white house is missing

Austin American-Statesman - - OPINION -

It has Barack Obama, raised in the Hawai­ian hood and In­done­sia, and Va­lerie Jar­rett, who spent her early years in Iran. But un­like Bill Clin­ton, who never needed help fath­om­ing South­ern black cul­ture, Obama lacks ad­vis­ers who are de­scended from the cen­tral African Amer­i­can ex­pe­ri­ence, ones who un­der­stand “the slave thing,” as a top black Demo­crat dryly puts it.

The first black pres­i­dent should ex­pand be­yond his cam­paign se­cu­rity blan­ket, the smug cor­don of over­pro­tec­tive white guys sur­round­ing him — a long po­lit­i­cal tra­di­tion un­der­scored by Geral­dine Fer­raro in 1984 when she com­plained about the “smart-ass white boys” from Wal­ter Mon­dale’s cam­paign who tried to boss her around.

Oth­er­wise, this ad­min­is­tra­tion will keep trip­ping over race rather than in­spir­ing on race.

The West Wing white guys who pushed to ditch Shirley Sher­rod be­fore Glenn Beck could pounce not only didn’t bother to Google, they weren’t fa­mil­iar enough with civil rights his­tory to rec­og­nize the name Sher­rod. And they didn’t re­turn the calls and e-mail of prom­i­nent blacks who tried to alert them that some­thing was wrong.

Charles Sher­rod, Shirley’s hus­band, was a Free­dom Rider who, along with the civil rights hero John Lewis, was a key mem­ber of the Stu­dent Non­vi­o­lent Co­or­di­nat­ing Com­mit­tee of the 1960s.

As Lewis, the long­time Ge­or­gia con­gress­man, told The At­lanta Jour­nal-Con­sti­tu­tion, he knew im­me­di­ately that some­thing was amiss with the dis­torted video clip of Sher­rod talk­ing to the NAACP.

“I’ve known these two in­di­vid­u­als — the hus­band for more than 50 years and the wife for at least 35, 40 — and there’s not a racist hair on their heads or any­place else on their bod­ies,” Lewis said.

We might not have a “nation of cow­ards” on race, as At­tor­ney Gen­eral Eric Holder con­tended, but we might have a West Wing of cow­ards on race.

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