I tried to be very post-racial this weekend. It didn’t take.
Let me explain. The saga of Shirley Sherrod that mesmerized the country stopped me in my tracks. I covered it as a writer. I lived it as an American, an African American. This latest attempt to start a national conversation on race ended as so many have — in cross-talk, misunderstandings and as a reminder, as if we needed one, that the racial divide isn’t an easy one to cross.
That Shirley Sherrod survived with her humanity intact is a tribute to her, not to our culture. She refused to be reduced to a pawn in the battle of the NAACP vs. the Tea Party or a stand-in for an African-American president or a symbol of retribution and rage.
The woman who sought justice for others after it was denied in the case of her father’s murder ended the week in the arms of the white farmers whose land she saved. I ended it taking some satisfaction in that American story, and looking to heal. After all, my profession didn’t come off too well, either.
When I’m accused of obsessing over race, I say that the opposite is true. I never think about race — until I’m reminded of it. The thing is, I’m reminded of it a lot.
This weekend, I decided to ignore even hints of our less-than-perfect union, to try to occupy this post-racial nirvana that’s more hope than reality. I would have to turn off the TV chat fests, where every inch of the Sherrod case was overanalyzed. I escaped to that all-American equalizer, the shopping mall, into the crowded Apple store, where people of all ages and races speak the language of iPad, even when that language isn’t English.