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July 22, 2010

‘Teachable Moment’ in USDA Official’s Firing

Racism, especially in official and political circles should not be tolerated, as two recent stories bear out. First, there were the claims of former Justice Department official J. Christian Adams about department officials instructing attorneys in the civil rights division to ignore cases involving black defendants and white victims. Hence, the DoJ dropping the case concerning New Black Panther voter intimidation. Then, there was last week’s NAACP resolution calling on the Tea Party movement to condemn racism in its midst.

On the heels of these events, conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart released a video clip (see below) of USDA official Shirley Sherrod, who is black, allegedly describing for an NAACP audience how she many years ago considered withholding help to a white farmer facing bankruptcy because she felt black farmers were suffering. For this alleged disclosure, Sherrod was forced by the Obama administration to resign immediately from her position, and the NAACP issued a statement condemning her act.

The problem was that the incident occurred 24 years ago and Sherrod was using the story – told four months ago – to illustrate overcoming personal bias, as the full video (again, see below) indicates. (Not that she is all about transcending racism…) The White House has apologized to Sharrod and offered her another position at the USDA.

In this teachable moment the NAACP audience is caught laughing as Sherrod described how she determined the fate of the white farmer. Now, the NAACP has joined those condemning the remarks. But if they thought it was worthy of condemnation, why didn’t they speak up at the time? It’s sort of like sitting in the a front pew of Jeremiah Wright’s “church” for 20 years until you run for president.

That said, we think Wall Street Journal columnist James Taranto is correct in observing, “It seems clear that both the administration’s decision to put [Sherrod] out to pasture and the NAACP’s to accuse her of racism were political ones. And in a way it’s progress that charges of racism have become an equal-opportunity destroyer. We hope, however, that the lesson the president and his supporters, including the NAACP, take from all this is to be more circumspect about leveling the charge against their opponents.”

None of this is to absolve Sherrod of racism herself. She has been using the race card to bash the Right in general and Fox News in particular. Fox “intended exactly what they did,” she said. “They were looking for the result they got yesterday. I am just a pawn. I was just here. They are after a bigger thing, they would love to take us back to where we were many years ago. Back to where black people were looking down, not looking white folks in the face, not being able to compete for a job out there and not be a whole person.” Apparently she thinks “We Report, You Decide,” is some sort of racist code lingo.

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