Andrew Breitbart announced that he would publish at least one video of the NAACP itself cheering racism. Breitbart delivers on that promise today at Big Government, showing USDA official Shirley Sherrod explain to an appreciative NAACP audience in July 2009 how she deliberately withheld information from a white farmer in Georgia trying to save his land and his business:
The Breitbart piece is here, and yes, the videos are rather stunning; it is unimaginable to me that any government representative could stand before an audience and say some of this stuff. As I asked here last week, “have people meant what they’ve been saying for the past 50 years, or has hit all been just words?”
Nevertheless I am uncomfortable with this “get” by Breitbart. He writes:
In the first video, Sherrod describes how she racially discriminates against a white farmer. She describes how she is torn over how much she will choose to help him. And, she admits that she doesn’t do everything she can for him, because he is white. Eventually, her basic humanity informs that this white man is poor and needs help. But she decides that he should get help from “one of his own kind”. She refers him to a white lawyer.
Sherrod’s racist tale is received by the NAACP audience with nodding approval and murmurs of recognition and agreement. Hardly the behavior of the group now holding itself up as the supreme judge of another groups’ racial tolerance.
All true. The “glass houses” axiom is certainly getting a workout here. But the video ends so abruptly!
Sherrod, who is not an impressive public speaker, says she did not do all she could for the “poor white farmer” who she perceived to be somehow both asking for her help and simultaneously “trying to show me he was superior to me; I knew what he was doing…” She admits that she did just “enough” for the farmer so as to cover her own sense of accountability and then: “I took him to a white lawyer . . . I figured if I took him to one of them, then his own kind would take care of him.”
Yes, there is a bit of paranoid projection, there, and some shocking language–language that has been rightly rejected by society–that seems to play well to the audience. But then Sherrod apparently has a revelation. She begins to understand that “it’s about poor versus those who have, and not so much about white–it is about white and black–but you know it opened my eyes, because I took him to one of his own.”
Ed Morrissey writes:
Actually, if Sherrod had a different ending for this story, it could have been a good tale of redemption. She almost grasps this by initially noting that poverty is the real issue, which should be the moral of the anecdote. Instead of having acted on this realization — and perhaps mindful of the audience — Sherrod then backtracks and says that it’s really an issue of race after all.
And that’s what is troubling me.
Doesn’t it seem like, after all of that sort of winking, “you and I know how they really are” racist crap wherein Sherrod–intentionally or not–indicts her own narrow focus, she was heading to a more edifying message? What did it open her eyes about? Was she about to say “I took him to one of his own, but it shouldn’t have mattered about that; my job was to serve all the farmers who needed help.”
Was she about to say, “I learned about myself and about how far we still have to go?”
Was she about to say “it’s not poor vs those who have, because we are not at war, we are just in the same human reality that ever was?”
Was she about to say, “poor is poor, hungry is hungry and the past is the past when a family can’t eat?”
I want to know. Because it seemed like Sherrod was heading somewhere with that story, and the edit does not let us get there. I want the rest of the story before I start passing judgment on it.
This damned, cancerous issue of race is never going to get behind us if game-playing such as Sherrod describes continues. But it also won’t get behind us if resentment is going to be sowed for any sort of expediency, by anyone – not by the NAACP, not by congressional theatrics and not by center-right conservatives, no matter how fed up they’re becoming with what seems, increasingly, to be a government that selects its constituency, rather than the other way around.
I want to see the rest of the tape. I cannot believe Sherrod ended on “I took him to one of his own.” Either she said something much worse after that (which we would have seen) or she said something much better.
If it was something “better” then we should have seen that, too.
There is a second video at Breitbart, btw, which shows Sherrod basically telling people that they should get government jobs, because they’re almost impervious to layoffs and firings. That offends me, by the way. No one should have a lock on a job, simply because it is the job they have. All that does is breed mediocrity and thick delusions.
UPDATE I: Ed Morrissey emails that he’ll be interviewing Andrew Breitbart on the Hugh Hewitt Show, at 6:20 ET, and should have him for 6-7 minutes.
I assume Breitbart’s edit is fair to the spirit of her remarks; if it isn’t, rest assured that Media Matters or whoever will produce the full tape of the event and demand to know why essential context was bowdlerized. And speaking of Breitbart, didn’t he claim to have “tapes” — plural — of racism at NAACP events? Perhaps that explains his latest Tweet, written half an hour before I’m posting this: “Hey @ericboehlert & the mostly male Caucasian @mmfa ’senior fellows’: Get some rest. Tomorrow’s gonna be long day & first of many in a row.” Hmmmm.
I am super tied-up with the Future of Catholicism week, and so have been writing fast all day, but I should have also mentioned, as Allah said, and many here have commented, that I did not think Breitbart too clumsy to know what he was editing. It seems he is playing what the Edwardians used to call “a deep hand.” I’m not sure.
UPDATE III: Gay Patriot wonders about sour grapes:
Still, for many years, the NAACP was at the vanguard of a movement for positive social change in this country, pushing many reforms which were good for this country and fighting many laws (and attitudes) which represented some of the worst parts of this nation’s history. And now the Tea Party has become a vehicle for real change in this country.
Perhaps NAACP President Ben Jealous resents the more prominent role his predecessors played in the debates of their day than he does today.
Do NAACP leaders resent the Tea Parties for representing the most dynamic grassroots political movement of the day, a role it once enjoyed?
Also, Instalanche! The sweetest word in blogdom, bar none! Thanks, Glenn!
Filing this under “Remaking America” and “Remaking Ourselves.” And “Socialism Doesn’t Work.”