The NAACP can’t get out its own way on the story of Shirley Sherrod, the Department of Agriculture official who was sacked following comments she made to the “civil rights” group about a white farmer. The Obama administration isn’t exactly covering itself in glory either. Meanwhile, most folks seem to be missing the basic point of the story, at least from the perspective of Andrew Breitbart, the man who drove it.
By way of background, as John explained yesterday, Sherrod spoke at an NAACP Freedom Fund dinner in Georgia earlier this year. During her talk, she described how she was conflicted years ago when, for the first time, a white farmer came to her for help in her capacity as a government official [correction: I think it was in her capacity as an employee at a non-profit]. To the laughter and obvious approval of members of the NAACP audience, Sherrod admitted that she did not give the white farmer “the full force of what I could do” because she thought the farmer was acting superior and because of his race. But Sherrod went on to explain that the episode taught her to reject racist impulses and to view issues more in terms of rich vs poor (i.e. economics) than black vs white (i.e. race).
The NAACP promptly condemned Sherrod. But now it claims it was “snookered” into doing so by Fox News and Breitbart. The NAACP says that, “having reviewed the full tape, spoken to Ms. Sherrod, and most importantly heard the testimony of the white farmers mentioned in this story, we now believe the organization that edited the documents did so with the intention of deceiving millions of Americans.”
But neither Fox News nor Breitbart forced the NAACP to issue a condemnation before reviewing the full tape and speaking to Sherrod. If the NAACP rushed to judgment, it is the fault of the NAACP. It is not the fault of Breitbart; as we shall see, he was making a point about the NAACP, not Sherrod.
The NAACP is asking the Agricultural Department to reconsider its decision to fire Sherrod. But the Department is sticking to its guns, saying that the discharge is based on comments Sherrod made as an Obama adminsitration official, not for what she did or did not do for farmers in the past. This strikes me as strange because Sherrod’s statements to the NAACP ultimately are, if anything, anti-racist.
But the point Breitbart was making has nothing to do with the merits of Sherrod or her fitness to continue at the Agriculture Department. The portions of the tape of interest to Breitbart are those in which members of the NAACP laugh at and approve of Sherrod’s initial impulse to provide inferior service to a white farmer. These NAACP members have been caught on tape condoning racism and demonstrating their own. Meanwhile, the NAACP condemns the Tea Party for what appears to be phantom racism.
This contradiction might well explain why the NAACP, in a state of panic, rushed to judgment on the hapless Shirley Sherrod.
Similarly, charges of racial bias in the enforcement of the Civil Rights laws by high level officials at the Obama/Holder Justice Department may explain why the administration was so quick to dump Sherrod, a small fry.
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