Politics & Media
Jul 21, 2010, 07:43AM

Rehire Shirley Sherrod. Now.

We need to stop letting the Right redefine what racism actually is. (Even Jonah Goldberg agrees with me. Sort of.)

What started as another Andrew Breitbart “gotcha lib-ruls” has turned into a full-blown Media Affair that’s brimming with embarrassment, pain and outright sleaze.

Department of Agriculture employee Shirley Sherrod was fired earlier this week after Breitbart—of the dubious pimps’n’hos ACORN investigation—posted some video clips of Sherrod speaking at an NAACP event. A couple of minutes were pulled from the 40-plus minute speech—conveniently, the few minutes when she spoke of holding prejudice against a white farmer.

And so the party of anti-anti-racism raced to the trough of umbrage, raised their hackles to the sky and crowed for all they were worth. Almost immediately on the heals of this display came the—spoiler alert—notion that maybe her words were taken out of context. The event she described occurred over 20 years ago, before she was at the Ag. And wasn’t the white farmer in question now saying that Sherrod was a lifelong friend, and that she saved the family’s farm?

The never-ending parade of projection from the Right on all things race never ceases to amaze me. From Arizona’s immigration reform to the racist-sexist histrionics over Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination to across-the-board-condoned Muslim-bashing, there is only so much slack one can give before one realizes that the Right still traffics—indeed, rolls around in like a pig in shit—in racial politics and dog-whistle coding.

As if the umbrage over Sherrod’s statements wasn’t transparently stupid enough, a look through the transcript of the whole speech shows a dyed-in-the-wool let’s-all-move-beyond-race parable. Oh, and Breitbart hadn’t even seen the whole video when he posted the clip. Due diligence fail. When ring wingers lick their chops over a few wimpy email threads at JournoList, all you hear are shouts of “everyone is biased, everyone conspires, everyone wants their team to win.” Held up side by side, this argument is pure fantasy.

No less than Jonah Goldberg, a perfect example of the useful idiot journalists on the Right, is callling foul:

I think she should get her job back. I think she's owed apologies from pretty much everyone, including my good friend Andrew Breitbart. I generally think Andrew is on the side of the angels and a great champion of the cause. He says he received the video in its edited form and I believe him. But the relevant question is, Would he have done the same thing over again if he had seen the full video from the outset? I'd like to think he wouldn't have. Because to knowingly turn this woman into a racist in order to fight fire with fire with the NAACP is unacceptable.

President Obama fouled off the opportunity that was the “Beer Summit”; he needs to step in and see that Sherrod is rehired, since her dismissal was without cause, and show that the Left need not be constantly afraid of a reactionary Right—a political entity that, significantly lacking as intelligent, lettered and successful a journalism culture as the Left, is reliant on parroting talking points and making sure everyone has everyone else’s back.

The irony of this incident is how poignant the full breadth of Sherrod’s speech really is. Breitbart, full-on coward if there was ever any doubt, can't even bring himself to apologize. Also—no, take it away TNC:

Taking it all in, it must be said that the landscape is as follows: We have an administration that will contort itself to defend a movement whose convention speakers call for the reinstatement of the tools of segregation. That same administration will swiftly jettison an appointee, herself the victim of homegrown terrorism, for echoing the kind of message of redemption and personal responsibility that has become the president's hallmark on race. Andrew Breitbart says that Sherrod's speech, not the Tea Party's rhetoric, is the real racism. It is an argument that is as old as American white supremacy, and one that this administration, through its actions over the past week, has tacitly endorsed.

The argument has been made that this isn't Obama, just the people working under him. That theory elides the responsibility of leaders to set a tone. The tone that Obama has set, in regards to race, is to retreat with great velocity in the face of anything that can be defined as "racial." Granted, this has been politically smart. Also granted, Obama has done it with nuance. But it can not be expected that the president's subordinates will share that nuance.

More disturbingly, this is what happens when you treat the arrest of a black man, in his home, as something that can be fixed over beers. This is what happens when you silently ascent to the notion that racism and its victims are somehow equally wrong. The ground, itself, is rigged with a narrative of inversion that goes back centuries. When you treat the two side as equals, expect not just more of the same. Expect worse.

Let's leave it at that.


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