Race Baiting Out of Control
For the last couple of weeks the media has been reporting on the NAACP and it's provocative declaration that there are elements of racism within the Tea Party movement that need to be condemned by Tea Party organizers.
The attempt to brand the Tea Partiers as racist has been a liberal project for months. In an effort to make themselves once again relevant, the NAACP jumped with both feet onto this bandwagon.
Enter conservative media flamethrower Andrew Breitbart.
Breitbart made a big name for himself last year, by posting the famous video of staff members of the widly liberal and pro-Democrat group ACORN, advising a couple posing as a pimp and a prostitute how to, among other things, set up a child prostitution ring in the U.S.
He has since offered $100,000 to anyone who can substantiate the claims of black congressmen who said last year they were called the "n------s" as they went through a mob of mostly white protesters to vote on the unpopular healthcare bill.
Breitbart argues that the failure of any video or audio footage backing up the congressmen's claims, shows beyond a reasonable doubt that the congressmen lied about what was yelled that day. In any case, no one has managed to come forward and claim the money.
Nevertheless, some media outlets have continued to repeat the congressmen's claims as if they are true. Breitbart and others understandably see a concerted effort by some media liberals to use the false accusation of racism to discredit critics of Democratic agenda and Obama Administration.
In fact, just recently it was revealed that prominent liberal journalist and blogger Spencer Ackerman explicitly said as far back as 2008, that such tactics should be used discredit conservatives bent on defeating Barack Obama in the presidential race going on at the time.
OK, so in the aftermath of the NAACP's race-baiting, Breitbart is sent a video of Shirley Sherrod addressing an NAACP convention talking about how she didn't do as much as she could for a white farmer who came to her with pressing financial needs because she got the sense he was talking down to her.
That clip of Sherrod's speech was posted on Breitbart's Web site. What wasn't shown was what Sherrod said later in her talk was how she came to learn that it wasn't really so much about black and white or race but about poor people. Such stories of personal redemption and racial understanding need to be told more often, not less.
Before Sherrod's remarks were seen and heard in context, she was fired by the Secretary of Agriculture himself, Tom Vilsack, who sanctimoniously wrote that there was "zero tolerance" for discrimination within his department. It was later learned that the firing was done with the knowledge, and very possibly at the direction, of the White House.
Not to be outdone NAACP Ben Jealous, condemned Sherrod's remarks himself based solely on the snippet Breitbart showed on his web site.
Now everyone is pointing fingers at each other as they walk back from rash actions. Jealous is blaming Breitbart and FOX News and claims the NAACP was "snookered" into behaving so rashly. Breitbart maybe. But FOX News hadn't even reported on the story when the NAACP threw Sherrod under the bus. (It would have been more accurate to say NAACP was snookered by its bias against and fear of FOX News covering the story.
However, it's the reaction of the White House that is especially troubling. It shows how reactionary and politically motivated it is. It's willingness to condemn Sherrod without knowing all the facts.
According to Sherrod, she was ordered to resign by White House officials for fear the story would be on "Glenn Beck" that night.
In the meantime, Breitbart is taking no responsibility for Sherrod's firing, or for misrepresenting her remarks or views on race. He is maintaining that the video shows the reaction of the NAACP crowd in supporting Sherrod's initial negative racial feelings toward the white farmer and laughed when she said she had decided not to do everything in her power to help him.
This is Breitbart's way of staying on offense. And it is simply repulsive. He used this woman to make a point, completely disregarding the context in which her remarks were made and not caring that he didn't get the story right. At least, in his view, it got the White House and the NAACP to embarrasingly overreact, which is good enough for him. He did what he accuses his liberal enemies of doing of all the time.
It is a strategy that Breitbart points out explicitly supported by the former head of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Prof. Mary Frances Berry.
As she recently wrote:
Tainting the tea party movement with the charge of racism is proving to be an effective strategy for Democrats. There is no evidence that tea party adherents are any more racist than other Republicans, and indeed many other Americans. But getting them to spend their time purging their ranks and having candidates distance themselves should help Democrats win in November. Having one’s opponent rebut charges of racism is far better than discussing joblessness.If this is the announced political strategy of America's liberal elite, it's hard to blame conservative firebrands like Breitbart for fighting fire with fire. But I do. It is just plain dirty and wrong to call anyone a racist as a political or rhetorical tactic just to get them to shut up or change the subject.
A pox on all those who engage in such slimely and destructive nonsense.
UPDATE: More here. Jonah Goldberg says his friend Breitbart got the video in edited form and maybe he did. But when he had the chance to take his share of responsibility for Sherrod's firing he refused. That's lame.
UPDATE II: Here's NAACP Prez Ben Jealous throwing Sherrod under the Race-Baiting Bus.
Since our founding in 1909, the NAACP has been a multi-racial, multi-faith organization that– while generally rooted in African American communities– fights to end racial discrimination against all Americans.Actually, Sherrod's story concerned her time not with the USDA but with the state of Georgia more than a decade ago.
We concur with US Agriculture Secretary Vilsack in accepting the resignation of Shirley Sherrod for her remarks at a local NAACP Freedom Fund banquet.
Racism is about the abuse of power. Sherrod had it in her position at USDA. According to her remarks, she mistreated a white farmer in need of assistance because of his race.
We are appalled by her actions, just as we are with abuses of power against farmers of color and female farmers.
Her actions were shameful. While she went on to explain in the story that she ultimately realized her mistake, as well as the common predicament of working people of all races, she gave no indication she had attempted to right the wrong she had done to this man.
The reaction from many in the audience is disturbing. We will be looking into the behavior of NAACP representatives at this local event and take any appropriate action.
We thank those who brought this to our national office’s attention…