Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Shirley Sherrod... A Teachable Moment

By: Les Carpenter III
Rational Nation USA

Yesterday the news media and the blogoshere went wild chasing the Shirley Sherrod (racism) story...  After Andrew Breitbart  released an approximately  two minute cut from USDA's Sherrod's forty six minute address to the NAACP. Initial reaction was of course negative and in fact lead to Sherrod s firing.

When it first broke yesterday I was inclined to jump on the story as I believed it would be a hot topic and initially thought "getting my two cents worth in early" would be desirable. However, my better judgement told me to hold back. My sense was there was more to the story than Breitbart had originally put out.

My thoughts at the time... it only stands to reason a two minute cut from a longer address may very well not be representative of the full content of the address. Everyone is aware of the 'thirty' sound bite right? To my mind that is what I thought the Breitbart's release might very well be.Turns out my instincts were right.

There is of course talk about this being a "teachable moment." I must say I agree. For me the teachable moment is really more of a reminder that all things are not exactly what they seem at first glance. That the absolute least desirable time to put pen to paper is in the :heat of the moment. That resting on your first original reaction and delving deeper and doing some additional research is by far preferable. In so doing you are maintaining your credibility as a citizen journalist.

Having said this I must say that even after listening to both the Breitbart release and the full video questions do remain. There is still the issue of inherent racism that exits in all races in America and how this naturally impacts on ones perception and decision making process.

Her separation from the USDA is being reviewed as it well should be. The decision should not be rushed, it should come only after a thoughtful review of the full tape of her address, the review of the tape (as well as her record at USDA) should be by a panel of executive within the USDA, and it should be bi-racial in make up.

Approaching the issue of her possible reinstatement in this manner offers the best hope for a valid decision. One  that will more easily be accepted by all sides in this debate. This could very well become a "teachable moment." It will require sincerity, trust, and work. 

As I said there remains questions and certainly varying interpretations on Sherrod's motivations and intentions. Here are two compelling yet opposing views.

From Riehl World View:

In both the full video and a 3 minute excerpt I produced, Sherrod labels the entire Republican Party racist, claiming they simply can't stand to see a black man in the White House. She also characterizes totally legitimate political opposition to ObamaCare from average citizens as mean and ultimately racist in the end. Had some previous Bush appointee called the Democrat Party a bunch of race-baiting hucksters, or poverty pimps - putting black citizens in that camp, too - there is no way said official would be able to keep their position. Yet, that is precisely what Sherrod did, only it was Republicans and her political opponents she so openly smeared.

The standards are ugliness, ignorance and divisiveness. There should be absolutely no doubt that those are the standards to which a Bush appointee would be held. I see no valid reason to not hold Sherrod to the very same standards, as well.

As far as the original video being a landmark on the road to a truly post-racial America, here is my argument. I believe many of us know where the real racially divisive force comes from in American politics today. Progressive Left Democrats and organizations like the NAACP thrive on racially divisive politics. What Sherrod accused the elites of, divide and conquer, is precisely what the Left in America has been doing for years when it comes to black Americans.

Read more here.

From Think Progress:

Within less than a day, Sherrod resigned from her USDA post under heavy pressure from the White House, saying she received “at least three” frantic phone calls from superiors demanding her resignation. At first glance, the forced resignation seemed fair — even the NAACP endorsed it, calling her comments “shameful.”

However, new evidence suggests that BigGovernment selectively edited the video to grossly distort what actually happened. “Context is everything,” Breitbart wrote in his hit piece, but he failed mention this key context:

Sherrod [told the Atlanta Journal Constitution] that what online viewers weren’t told in reports posted throughout the day Monday was that the tale she told at the banquet happened 24 years ago — before she got the USDA job — when she worked with the Georgia field office for the Federation of Southern Cooperative/Land Assistance Fund.

Sherrod said the short video clip excluded the breadth of the story about how she eventually worked with the man over a two-year period to help ward off foreclosure of his farm, and how she eventually became friends with the farmer and his wife. [...]

“The story helped me realize that race is not the issue, it’s about the people who have and the people who don’t. When I speak to groups, I try to speak about getting beyond the issue of race.

Indeed, the wife of the white farmer in question, 82-year-old Eloise Spooner, confirmed the story and called Sherrod a “friend for life.” She told CNN that Sherrod “treated us really good and got us all we could.” “She’s the one I give credit to with helping us save our farm”

Read more here.

In order to gain the insight necessary to make an informed and unemotional determination one needs to both read the facts as best can be determined and listen to both the short Breitbart version and the full video. Only then can one make a truly thoughtful and rational decision with respect to the issue of Shirley Sherrod's remarks and the larger issue of racism.

The two video's:  

In closing I will say only that at best Breitbart is guilty of shoddy journalism for not doing his homework and due diligence. At worst he is guilty of intentional yellow journalism with the intent to incite emotionalism and anger. In either case he has lost some credibility.

These are my thoughts. What are yours?

Cross posted at Left Coast Rebel.

Via: Memeorandum


  1. Your instincts rang true here, Les. I commend you on that. Above all we must always adhere to the truth and know that unlike our enemies, 'the ends do not justify the means.'

  2. Les: Journalism lost its credibility a long time ago and proved how horribly derelict they are during the 2008 election. Breitbart just joined their ranks, as far as I’m concerned, because there is NOTHING more important than the TRUTH and journalists are supposed to be our check and balance with the government--our watch dogs-- however they are more concerned with their ideology. More Americans need to realize we have to do our own research now.

  3. there still was elements of racism in her speech, it just did not appear at the time reported. the racism appears when she refers to the opponents of Obamacare. she makes the remarks without thought towards history which would be proof that she was wrong in her accusation.


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