Defending the Indefensible

Okay, watch this short clip:

Contrast with Andrew Breitbart’s initial post:

We are in possession of a video from in which Shirley Sherrod, USDA Georgia Director of Rural Development, speaks at the NAACP Freedom Fund dinner in Georgia. In her meandering speech to what appears to be an all-black audience, this federally appointed executive bureaucrat lays out in stark detail, that her federal duties are managed through the prism of race and class distinctions.
In the first video, Sherrod describes how she racially discriminates against a white farmer. She describes how she is torn over how much she will choose to help him. And, she admits that she doesn’t do everything she can for him, because he is white. Eventually, her basic humanity informs that this white man is poor and needs help. But she decides that he should get help from “one of his own kind”. She refers him to a white lawyer.
Sherrod’s racist tale is received by the NAACP audience with nodding approval and murmurs of recognition and agreement. Hardly the behavior of the group now holding itself up as the supreme judge of another groups’ racial tolerance.

Gee, Andrew Breitbart, I can’t imagine why anyone would’ve reacted as if your post was about Shirley Sherrod being a racist.

As importantly, even the Breitbart fallback position — that the NAACP audience in the video was racist — is idiotic and misleading. Rich Lowry alludes to this at The Corner. I’ve seen a few other people rebut it too, but no one as eloquently as a commenter at Radley Balko’s indispensable blog The Agitator. Earlier in the thread, someone writes, “There’s no need for context. She states that she gave a farmer less help than she had to simply because he’s white. Sorry, that makes her a racist. Even worse is the response from the audience that makes it plain that she’s preaching to the choir.”

Here is the commenter’s response (emphasis added):

She didn’t say that. She said she didn’t go to the wall for a condescending jerk. Not less than she had to, but less than might have been possible. There didn’t seem to be much simple about the situation, hence the depth of the story. That this was magnified because she thought to herself ‘this son of a bitch is asking for me for help and can’t treat me like an equal’ seems reasonable. I don’t know how this makes her a racist, more a person who lives in a complicated world where racists exist who hate her only because she’s black and she’d rather not go out of her way to help people so prejudiced against her. Seems reasonable so far. Then she tells the story of how she sees past that farmers hostility that she interpreted as racism for what it really is: the desperate act of a desperately poor farmer. Something that resonates with her, having seen it hundreds if not thousands of times before. She feels remorse for her judgmental (though not racist, I can’t stress this enough) nature, and proceeds to create two lifelong friends by becoming seemingly the only person on earth with the capabilities and the will to save this man’s farm from foreclosure. This was all foreshadowed quite plainly with the way that she began her story, intimating that she would be telling a parable not about race, but about poverty and overcoming racial stereotypes and prejudices. Those people in the audience you hear agreeing aren’t cheering her supposed racism, they’re supporting the redemption she foreshadowed in her introduction.

Forgive me for noting one more time that this isn’t the first time that Andrew Breitbart has smeared an innocent person in the course of waging ideological warfare, and if every site that fell for the ACORN videos as I did had paid even a little bit of attention to the treatment of Juan Carlos Vera, rather than conveniently allowing the story to die rather than being forced to admit error in highlighting his plight, perhaps Big Government would’ve been discredited as a trustworthy outfit.

Shep Smith learned that lesson, as he notes in this clip:

Elsewhere, I do my best to explain how to argue with Mr. Breitbart.