The rapid and misguided condemnation—and subsequent resignation—of Shirley Sherrod has reignited a lot of questions about the role of race in America's political landscape. As Nation columnist Melissa Harris-Lacewell explained last night on Countdown, American politicians have long been assigning blame to black women—and "the mythical welfare queen" in particular—for a whole host of problems.
"The villification of black women for sport and political gain has been sort of a basic part of the American political strategy for both the Republican and Democratic parties for a couple of decades now," Harris-Lacewell says. And the fact that the NAACP, the organization that should have come to Sherrod's defense, lacked the basic understanding of her background that would have helped them correct the problem is the worst of it. "To say her last name alone should have prompted, for the head of the NAACP, an immediate moment of pausing," Harris-Lacewell says.