July 23, 2010

Sherrod Case is About More Than Critical Thinking

Shirley SherrodAmerican Atheists' Blair Scott has suggested that the recent Shirley Sherrod debacle provides a good example of what happens when critical thinking is largely absent. He's right. This case does reveal a notable absence of critical thinking. But that is not the real lesson, at least not for me. I think that what we need to take from the Sherrod case is that what is often dismissed as mere racism is part of a political strategy that we don't like to discuss.

We do not like to talk about the so-called Southern strategy used by the Republican party with great skill since the 1960s. Like everything else pertaining to race in America, it makes us uncomfortable. We'd just as soon fire accusations of racism at a few well-known morons and leave it at that.

To believe that smear campaigns like the one directed at Sherrod are part of a political strategy, we might have to ask difficult questions. We might even begin to wonder why such tactics are so effective. We want to distance ourselves from the George Wallaces of the Civil Rights era. We do not want to believe that what worked for him could work for someone like Glenn Beck today, even as we see just how well it works.

I suppose we can extend what Mr. Scott meant by critical thinking to cover what I am talking about here. But I think I am suggesting something broader than critical thinking. We need to recognize and overcome the sources of our own reluctance to apply any thinking skills we might have to situations like the one Sherrod faced.

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