However, this whole stink about Shirley Sherrod, a US employee with the Georgia Dept. of Agriculture, has forced me to talk about it in a place where I can say more. Mrs. Sherrod gave a speech earlier this year to a gathering for the NAACP. She's a black woman who has endured quite a bit; in her speech she relates how her father was murdered by a white man in rural Georgia, when she was only 17. A cross was burned in her yard. The 40s and 50s were a brutal time of racism for some in the South. She is to be commended that, in spite of this history, she's made huge strides in her attempt to overcome her own response -- hatred.
When one person is hated because of her race, and she hates the other race in return, her hatred is exactly what theirs was: racism.
Mrs. Sherrod's speech was 43 minutes long. In it, she relates how, 24 years before, her initial reaction to a white farmer who needed her help as a gov't official in saving his farm land, was racial intolerance. She gave him minimal assistance. Later, she realized her error, and came to believe that the issue wasn't "white vs. black," but "rich vs. poor."
Andrew Breitbart, a conservative blogger, decided to post a portion of her speech. It's understandable that he wouldn't want to post a 43-minute speech on his blog; nobody would listen to it all. He posted the video where Sherrod describes her response to the farmer, and then her change of heart -- her new understanding. Here is the text of the video clip that Breitbart posted. Mrs. Sherrod said:
“The first time I was faced with having to help a white farmer save his farm, he took a long time talking, but he was trying to show me he was superior to me. I know what he was doing. He had to come to me for help. But what he didn’t know was while he was taking all that time talking, trying to show me he was superior to me, was I was trying to decide just how much help I was going to give him. I was struggling with the fact that so many people had lost their farm land. And here I was faced with having to help a white person save their land. So … I didn’t give him the full force of what I could do. I did enough. So that when he … I assumed the Dept. of Agriculture had sent him to me, either that or the Georgia Dept. of Agriculture, and uh, he needed to go back and report that I did try to help him. So I took him to a white lawyer that had attended some of the training that we had provided because Chapter 12 bankruptcy had just been enacted for the family farm. So I figured if I take him to one of them that his own kind would take care of him. That’s when it was revealed to me, y’all, that it’s about poor versus those who have. And not so much about white – it IS about white and black – it’s not, you know. It opened my eyes. Because I took him to one of his own."
I want to point out here that Breitbart did include (in fact, he made it the climax of the video) her description of her change of heart, of her rejection of her previous racist attitude. Breitbart didn't have to include that last portion, but he did.
If fact, if his intention had truly been to paint Sherrod as a racist, he would NEVER have included this part.
Mitch Albom, a Free Press Columnist, today posted an article vilifying Breitbart. He says this is an instance when we should "shoot the messenger." Some liberals have described Breitbart's blog post as trying to destroy Sherrod.
Indeed, the result of Breitbart's post was devastating, but it wasn't his fault. The NAACP & the White House made it devastating. The NAACP attacked Mrs. Sherrod -- remember the NAACP? The group to which she was speaking? The group that had the ENTIRE video tape in the first place? They claimed they were "snookered" or tricked, by Breitbart and Fox News, that they were misled by a video clip that misrepresented Sherrod.
Did it misrepresent her? No. It was her own account. It showed BOTH her previous stance, and her change.
But they were too hasty, too impatient, to examine even Breitbart's video carefully. The NAACP -- and the White House -- gave a knee-jerk reaction, resorted to their usual reflex of whipping out the Race Card. (Perhaps they should practice that action less often, eh?) And the White House fired Sherrod from her job.
Oh. My. Word.
And when they decided to watch the whole video? (Or read the whole health care bill. Or the Arizona law. Sigh. Do these people have NO one who does a little research for them?) They were, naturally appalled, and stumbled over themselves to apologize.
I never thought I'd live to see the day when Obama or the NAACP would apologize to a black person for accusing her of reverse racism. Who needs movies when such things are in the news?
And somebody had to be blamed, so it is Mr. Breitbart, as you see. Mr. Albom's article is all over my Google Feed Reader, telling the world to shoot Mr. Breitbart. Breitbart posted a clip from a video, an accurate clip that showed both sides of a woman's journey. Will no one say so?
Before I leave this matter entirely, I'd like to look more closely at Mrs. Sherrod's original speech. As I said, she has come a LONG way, a very long way, as she digs herself out of the racism she was born into. But she's not all the way out of it yet. Later in her speech, she also says this:
“I have never seen such mean-spirited people as I’ve seen lately over this issue of health-care. Some of the racism that we thought was buried, didn’t it surface? Now, we endured 8 years of the Bushes, and we didn’t do the things these Republicans are doing because you have a black president." (Clapping from audience.)
Whoa!!! Did she say what I THINK she said? That Republicans are hate-filled and mean-spirited, and it's actually racism driving their attitudes, AND it's all because there's a black man sitting in the Oval Office?
I've never heard such ridiculous drivel in my life. And she said this to a room full of black people. Do you think that's designed to produce the reconciliation between the races that she claims to long for?
Argh!! Clearly, she's not quite there yet.
Folks, I'm saying this ONE. LAST. TIME. Republicans don't dislike Obama because he's black. I'm perfectly indifferent to the color of skin of the president. I'm VERY concerned about his qualifications, his policies, his views. Sherrod's statement above is a classic example of the Race Card being slapped on the table, so that the real issues aren't addressed.
Sherrod said many good things in her speech. She encouraged the races to work together, to get rid of our disagreements. She encouraged the young blacks in the room to excel, to study, to achieve. She laments that more of them aren't working in her department:
“In Rural Development there are 129 employees, and guess how many of them are people of color. There are 129 in my agency … there are less than 20 of us. We have 6 area offices, and sub offices. And when I look at who’s coming up in the agencies, there aren’t many of us.”
Now, this means that in her department, one in every 6.5 employees, is a non-white. The black population in the US is about 16%, last time I checked. 1 in 6 is rather close to the national percentage. I understand that Sherrod would like the young black people she knows to excel, and she wants them to look at opportunities in her department.
I just wish she were more careful in her speech. "His own kind would take care of him." "There weren't more of us." She seems still be stuck in a "us vs. them" mentality, and friends, that's nowhere that Americans need to still be. As Morgan Freeman said to Mike Wallace, "I'll stop calling you a white man if you'll stop calling me a black man." Can't we just be PEOPLE? Can't we get to the point at which the color of my skin is no more important than the color of my eyes or hair? Sure, it's there, but no one's going to hate me for it?