USDA official Shirley Sherrod was fired after a video surfaced that made some fear she was racist against white people. Now it seems she was framed — and that the conversation about racism in this country has become seriously sick.
Here's what happened: Shirley Sherrod was the USDA's Georgia state director of rural development. In March, she gave a speech to the NAACP. Conservative provocateur Andrew Breitbart, in an effort to make the NAACP look racist and justify "why the Tea Party needs to exist," posted a video of a portion of the speech, in which she seemed to say she once didn't help a white farmer as much as she could have because of his race. Everyone flipped out, the NAACP condemned her, and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack asked for her resignation, which she gave. Now it turns out that in Sherrod's full speech, she actually described how she realized she was wrong not to help the farmer, and how she then became friends with him. Yesterday Vilsack said he was willing to reconsider and potentially reinstate Sherrod, but she's wary, saying, "I'm just not sure how I would be treated."
Which is understandable, since government officials now apparently have to avoid not only racism, but the appearance of racism, especially if they're black. In a statement explaining Sherrod's firing, Vilsack said,
Unfortunately, the statements and the context of the statements created a circumstance where in the future if people were not satisfied with the decisions that the rural development director made, they could attribute the decision to a wide variety of reasons that weren't necessarily related to the job.
And what might make people attribute an official's decision to racism? Perhaps an online video that erroneously makes that official look racist! Translation: Internet creeps can now control hiring and firing in this country simply by making someone look like a scary angry black person who will discriminate against poor innocent whites. As Karen Tumulty and Krissah Thompson of the Post point out, "Suspicions on the right that Obama has a hidden agenda — theories stoked in part by conservative media and sometimes involving race — have been a subplot of his rise, beginning almost as soon as he announced his campaign." And in order to keep those suspicions at bay, the left has to fire anyone who arouses them, even if that person is actually the victim of an outside suspicion-arousing campaign. Or, as @MariaMishka tweets, "How many Black ppl have resigned so that the Obama administration can prove to white ppl that Black people aren't a threat?"
What's especially interesting about all this crap is the concept of context. Breitbart opened his character assassination with the words, "Context is everything." Context like the rest of Sherrod's speech, in which she talked about helping the farmer? Jack Stuef of Wonkette writes that the NAACP "blam[ed] their initial reaction on context" — they said in a statement, "With regard to the initial media coverage of the resignation of USDA Official Shirley Sherrod, we have come to the conclusion we were snookered by Fox News and Tea Party Activist Andrew Breitbart into believing she had harmed white farmers because of racial bias." Maybe the NAACP should have considered the context that Breitbart was a fearmonger, and actually reviewed the tapes of their own event before, in Stuef's words, "They decided to immediately throw her under the bus." And maybe everyone involved should consider the larger context of allegations of black-on-white racism: that white-on-black racism is alive and well, and charging its opposite can often be a way of preventing black people from rising too far.
Image via TPMMuckraker.
Firing Of USDA Official Shirley Sherrod Now Under Review [Washington Post]
The Breitbart Circus [The Atlantic]
Tom Vilsack Fires Shirley Sherrod As The Summer Of Firings Over Nothing Continues [Wonkette]
USDA, White House Deny White House Involvement In Sherrod's Forced Resignation (VIDEO) [TPMMuckraker]
Video Proof: The NAACP Awards Racism — 2010 [Big Government]