Wednesday, June 17, 2009


How is it that in 2009, a year in which we have our first black President of the United States and have nominated the first Latina for Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, we TOLERATE racism in the federal government?

I won't be so naive as to ask how it perseveres; I get that. So long as we have people from different races we will always have some measure of racism. I've resigned myself to that sobering truth. I simply don't understand how we tolerate it in our government once it's discovered! This of course stems from the news earlier this week about Sherri Goforth, a legislative aide for Senator Diane Black of Tennessee. In case you had not heard, this woman, an employee of the State of Tennessee for more than 20 years, used her work computer and her work e-mail address to send an e-mail to a large number of recipients, many of whom were also public employees. This e-mail contained portraits of all 44 of our Presidents; that last one, of President Obama, was nothing black a black square with cartoon white eyes in it.

Now, this seems pretty innocuous and on some levels I would agree. Were this person to have made a joke like this in private, on their own time, I would have been in favor of a private reprimand (as it still makes the government look bad). But this racist gag was perpetrated on the clock using official resources. That means it violates all manner of workplace ethics and could be taken to represent an official viewpoint of her boss and the Republican Party of Tennessee. Senator Black is, on some level, the real target of my scorn. She has stated repeatedly that he will not tolerate this sort of behavior, and yet has chosen only to "punish" his aide by written reprimand; to the best of my knowledge there is no suspension and no termination. Why not? Senator Black, if you REALLY want to show that you will not tolerate racism, fire Ms. Goforth immediately. THAT sends a real message of zero tolerance that will be believed.

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