Friday, July 23, 2010

Racism - Real and Imagined - Sherrod Timeline

The incomplete and misleading Media Matters timeline for USDA official Shirley Sherrod's recent travail starts on Monday, 19 July, the day she was forced to resign by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

Here is my timeline that starts three days prior. It is based on Sherrod's own accounting in an interview with MSNBC [click for video].

THURSDAY, 15 July 2010:

Shirley Sherrod says she was first alerted the previous Thursday, 15 July, when someone sent her a nasty email about the deceptively edited Internet video of her talk to a March 2010 NAACP event. She says she replied with her side of the story and then forwarded it all to the USDA that very day. Thus, three days before she was forced to resign, the USDA knew her NAACP talk was about a redemptive event in her life where she overcame race-based emotions and helped a white farmer and his wife save their land.

MONDAY, 19 July 2010:

Again according to Sherrod herself, around 2:30PM on Monday, while at an official USDA meeting, she received a call and was told she was being put on administrative leave. During her drive home from the meeting, she received multiple calls from the USDA, culminating in one where she was told the White House wanted her out immediately and demanding that she pull over and send her resignation using her Blackberry, which she did. It is clear their urgency was prompted by a rumor the incendiary video would appear on FoxNews that evening.

Thus, although the USDA had Sherrod's explanation and three days to view the entire video, they forced her to resign prior to the deceptively edited video appearing on FoxNews. The O'Reilly Factor, apparently recorded earlier that evening, was the first FoxNews show to play a 30-second clip, with a subtitle noting she had already resigned.

TUESDAY, 20 July 2010

Ag Secretary Vilsack stood by his decision to terminate Sherrod even after the full context of her NAACP talk was known. His statement said:
"Yesterday, I asked for and accepted Ms. Sherrod's resignation for two reasons. First, for the past 18 months, we have been working to turn the page on the sordid civil rights record at USDA and this controversy could make it more difficult to move forward on correcting injustices. Second, state rural development directors make many decisions and are often called to use their discretion. ... The controversy surrounding her comments would create situations where her decisions, rightly or wrongly, would be called into question making it difficult for her to bring jobs to Georgia."

The NAACP, in lockstep with the Administration, initially condemned Sherrod's remarks as "shameful" and stated they were "appalled by her actions". Later that day they said they would review the whole tape, which was in their possession. After doing so, they concluded they had been "snookered" by FoxNews.

WEDNESDAY, 21 July 2010

Hasty backtracking by all! Vilsack, having reviewed the full video, apologized for forcing Sherrod to resign. He announced he had offered her a new position at the USDA. O'Reilly apologized, saying he had not done his homework, should have read the whole transcript before jumping to unjustified conclusions, and should not have called for her to be ousted. The White House press secretary, on behalf of the Administration, joined the chorus. (President Obama called Sherrod the following day to add his apology.)


We all hoped the election of our first Black President would lead us further down the I have a Dream road where, in the words of Martin Luther King:
"I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood. ... I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."
We have a ways to go but we have made a tremendous amount of progress. As a child I was apalled when "coloreds" were ordered to sit in the back of the Greyhound bus when we crossed into Maryland on our trip to Washington DC from New York.

Thank goodness government-imposed segregation is a thing of the past. Thank goodness the highest USDA official in Georgia was able to sit down "at a table of brotherhood" [and sisterhood] "on the red hills of Georgia [with] the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners". It was going so well until false accusations of racism by an Internet blogger, and a hair-trigger response by an overly-anxious Administration, forced her out.


The "bomb-throwing" rightwing blogger who posted the deceptively edited video of Sherrod excused his actions on the basis that the NAACP and other leftist groups have leveled similar untrue charges of racism at the Tea Party and the Republican Party and FoxNews and others on the right. Yes, extremists on both sides continue to make false charges of racism.

I am not a member of the Tea Party nor have I attended any of their events, but I generally support their views. They are a loosely associated group of local grassroots organizations. A few idiots (mostly provocateurs sent by Lyndon LaRouche as far as I can tell) attend Tea Party rallies with disgusting racist signs and the entire Tea Party is falsely labeled as racist.

I was pleased when the National Tea Party Federation, a coalition of local and regional Tea Party groups, soundly rejected a racist satire posted by a prominent person in the Tea Party Express group. The Federation demanded that the racial satirist be expelled by the Express group. When the Express group failed to do so, they were expelled from the Federation.

In keeping with the key tenets of the Tea Party movement of Constitutionally Limited Government and Free Markets, local and regional groups value their independence and reject any hint of a tightly controlled national body. That makes it more difficult to police their ranks. However, when the Northern Iowa Tea Party recently put up a disgusting billboard grouping President Obama with Hitler and Lenin, there was a clear outcry and the sign was taken down the next day!

The radical left seems to have adopted the tactic of falsely labeling the right in general, and the Tea Party in particular, as racists and worse. The media overplay the few nutcases with disgusting signs and generally ignore the overwhelming majority who are orderly and civil and even pick up the garbage when their rallies are over!

I am encouraged that the National Tea Party Federation (NTPF) has established strong membership rules, including:

  • Our organization rejects Birthers.
  • Our organization rejects 9/11 Truthers.
  • Our organization rejects racial discrimination.
  • Our organization rejects hate speech.
  • Our organization rejects acts of violence or subversive behavior.

Ira Glickstein


joel said...

A good summary, Ira, although you left out the "snookered" NAACP role in this story. They apparently were in possession of the entire tape, but seem not to have watched it. As for the tea parties, having attended four rallies and several local meetins, I agree with your summary. I must say that I never witnessed a sign of racism although it's logical to believe that extremists show up.

Ira Glickstein said...

Thanks Joel for your positive report about Tea Party members and their peaceful, non-racist events based on your personal observations. Although I have not been at any of their events your report rings absolutely true.

Unfortunately, it only takes one rotten fish to stink up the whole catch. When the major media are down on an organization, as they are on the Tea Party grassroots groups, they zoom in on that bad example and blame it on the whole group.

It is a free country (thank God) and any idiot can show up at a rally and carry a disgusting sign that has nothing to do with the purpose and beliefs of the organizers and members. In particular, the sign that shows President Obama with a Hitler mustache clearly says "Lyndon LaRouche" on it. His beliefs have nothing to do with the tenets of the Tea Party.

As for the NAACP being "snookered" and blaming FoxNews, of course they snookered themselves because they had the complete original tape all along. Like Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack who removed Ms. Sherrod prior to the deceptively edited video being shown on FoxNews, as well as Bill O'Reilly who admitted not doing his homework, they all snookered themselves.

Are there any excuses? Well, busy people like the head of the NAACP and the head of the USDA and O'Reilly himself, can't possibly read and fully comprehend everything that crosses their desks. So, they must depend on their staffs. However, the full Sherrod video was in the possession of the Georgia NAACP and not immediately available in Washington. Someone at USDA in Washington had Sherrod's email from three days prior explaining her position, but that was obviously not communicated to Vilsack or the White House official he coordinated with. Similarly, there may have been staffers at FoxNews who knew the full story but their voices never made it to O'Reilly until it was too late, etc.

With the 24-hour news cycle, the rule is:

Ready ... FIRE ... Aim

But, the 24-hour cycle also corrects things really fast as well. Overall, IMHO, it is good.

Ira Glickstein

CentralCoastRick said...

Thanks for the additional information, Ira. You've followed the details much more closely than I - I found the new information interesting.

I was curious about an interview with Brietbart the 'day after' the newsbreak in which he 'defended' his video NOT as an anti-Sherrod piece but rather as a piece demonstrating (via the NAACP audience cheering) that the AUDIENCE was exhibiting racism (in the same way as the NAACP was decrying it).

I did not follow his web-based comments to the video to see if this was revisionist history or if he perhaps just did not provide his intended context for the video.

Anyone who watched any of the rev. Wright tapes (imho rev. should not be capitalized unless it is a title demanding respect) knows that there is a type of interaction in which 'audience affirmation' may be uttered without (I hope, at least) thoughtful concurrence (on the part of audience members) being indicated.

I have been to a local Tea party meeting - about 2 years ago - and shared most of the views expressed (too much wasted govt. spending was the major theme of the meeting I attended). I am still on their mailing list and get regular news updates along with pictures of meetings.

So far there have been none with ANY racial overtones that crossed my threshold. (Even when there were concurrent hispanic demonstrations down the street that featured anti-Caucasian themes and plenty of Mexican flag toting demonstrators, as happened a year ago on the 4th of July nearby.) Professionals at detecting racism might find fodder in their archives, however.

My impression is that the central CA Tea party themes are centered on state (and federal) budgets & mis-spending as much larger (percieved) problems - and not race related problems.

Ira Glickstein said...

Thanks Rick for your positive report of your experience at a Tea Party event and as a recipient of their newsletter. Good to have you back commenting and I hope you do more of it, as well as post more new Topics in the near future.

Quite clearly, the tactic of calling your opponent a racist is quite potent in 21st century America. I guess that is a good thing since it shows nearly all Americans reject racism and racists.

I hope the extreme leftists who have made phony charges will see this tactic backfire. But, "it takes two to tango". It is especially important for the moderate right leaders associated with the Tea Party to be especially careful to avoid race-based arguments. The problem is that any idiot, or any agent provocateur, may infiltrate any public demonstration with a disgusting sign and provide ammunition for phony racist attacks.

As for the NAACP audience who listened to Ms. Sherrod with approval as she reounted her race-based emotional response, I did not hear them cheer, but there was some audible affirmation. I interpret that as recognition that many in that audience, who have personally experienced racial discrimination, were simply agreeing that they too might hesitate to help a white farmer while black farmers were wrongly losing their land.

Indeed, in the longer version of the video, Sherrod says that, at the time, she was concerned that the white farmer had been sent to her as a test case by the USDA or the Georgia Ag Department, to see if she would help him. That admission, plus the fact she sent him to "one of his own"
(a white lawyer) could be interpreted as an admission she only helped him to protect her own record and her own job.

I think we are all guilty of some level of racism. We all tend to favor those of "our own kind". Much of that is probably biologically coded as a survival factor from the thousands of years we lived in tribal situations and it was critically important to recognize enemies from other tribes. I think it is remarkable that we here in the USA have managed to overcome so much of it. As they sang "We shall overcome..."

Ira Glickstein