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Shirley Sherrod: Sacrificial lamb on the altar of race

As teachable moments in the minefield of race in America go, the case of Shirley Sherrod is a big one. When I first saw the video clip this morning, I was astonished. There was a black agriculture department official, Sherrod, boasting about how she used her federal position to deny help to a white farmer. Oh yeah. She needed to go. Or so I thought.

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As the day wore on and the truth was revealed, my heart sank. The videotape that caused a firestorm had been selectively edited. Sherrod was relating a story of redemption from 1986 when she worked for a non-profit in Georgia. Sure, she didn’t want to help the white man before her too much because he displayed what she called a superior attitude towards her. But Sherrod went on to talk about how she spent the next two years trying to help the man save his farm. Sherrod said she learned from that experience. That it wasn’t so much about black and white as it was about helping the poor.

But before all the facts were in, Sherrod lost her job. She told CNN that an undersecretary at agriculture told her that the White House wanted her out. The White House denies this. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the decision was his. Meanwhile, the wife of the farmer told CNN that Sherrod saved their family farm.

This is a travesty on so many levels. Yet my focus on is on how all this exposes why race and conversations on race almost never go well.

Attorney General Eric Holder got into a mess of trouble last year when he said that we are "a nation of cowards" because "we, average Americans, simply do not talk enough with each other about race." But he was absolutely right. When there is talking, there is no listening. No attempt to take a step back, to hear the words being said and to try to at least understand if not empathize with the pain, anger or frustration coming from the other side.

The Sherrod episode just bolsters Holder’s case. To talk honestly and openly about the nation’s original sin and its impact you risk getting shredded. Comments are taken out of context. Motives are questioned. A defensive posture is adopted on both sides. False impressions and misunderstandings take hold. And bad things end up happening to good people of good will.

By Jonathan Capehart  | July 20, 2010; 6:40 PM ET
Categories:  Capehart  | Tags:  Jonathan Capehart  
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Should've thought about that before you pulled the same crap on the Tea Party...homey.

Posted by: pcannady | July 20, 2010 7:01 PM | Report abuse

Reinstate her. Shame on those who edited that video to make it appear she made inappropriate comments.

Posted by: allie7 | July 20, 2010 7:03 PM | Report abuse

The old farmer isn't dead, sheesh. Fix yer story. Unless a dead man can give an interview -- an extremely persuasive interview -- on CNN, or else unless zombies really do exist, your story simply isn't factual.

Posted by: cgweeks | July 20, 2010 7:13 PM | Report abuse

Jonathan seems nuanced and thoughtful enough to speak and listen on the issue. But the politics of race are too flammable in these terribly partisan times.
Charges of racism are used as screeds to generalize and condemn disagreement. Race is used to check the bonafides of specific groups. I disagree that we are 'cowards' about race politics; we are like enraged spouses, with raised weapons, poised to attack.
These are our times.

Posted by: slatt321 | July 20, 2010 7:13 PM | Report abuse

The tea party IS full of racists. Fox news and the rigthwing blogs lied about this lady in order to try and manufacture a racist incident.

Posted by: vamonticello | July 20, 2010 7:15 PM | Report abuse

Before the full story was aired on Fox News, I had quickly jumped at the 'apparent' racism coming from Ms. Sherrod, and added my contempt and disgust along with others.

For that I am deeply sorry, and apologize to Ms. Sherrod and all others who were hurt by my earlier posts.


Posted by: prossers7 | July 20, 2010 7:25 PM | Report abuse

Sherrod needs to be reinstated first and then Vilsack needs to resign for being an incompetent leader for no even getting the facts first and being baited by right-wing tea party entertainment "news".

Posted by: jeffhutchins | July 20, 2010 7:30 PM | Report abuse

This horrible racist deserved to be fired for her awful, hate filled, racist remarks. The NAALCP should do the right thing and repudiate these remarks that came at one of their functions. The only reason that they don't is that they are a racist organization and support those remarks and that attitude.

Posted by: oldno7 | July 20, 2010 7:39 PM | Report abuse

Ms Sherrod was called three times when driving yesterday and told on each occasion that the "White House" wanted her resignation because it feared repercussions from the tape and its connection with the NAACP, which has been high jacked by black racists. The NAACP attacked the lady without viewing the tape or investigating. Now the NAACP leadership claims it was “snookered.” That explaination is lame. It admits it had the tape, but acted hastily to manipulate the news by publically supporting the White House “lynching” Ms Sherrod. No investigation, factual finding, or opportunity for Sherrod to respond to the airing – only White House execution followed by public reproval by the NAACP.

Andrew Breitbart, a Jewish conservative agitator, aired the edited tape because he considers Obama anti-Israeli. He did not "lynch" Shirley Sherrod. The Obama White House did. I believe her story.

Obama and his gang of thus have demonstrated unconscionable ineptitude at the art of governing. They are credit hogs and blame pointers. Here is what Thomas Sowell - a black man - wrote today of Obama the impostor:

Among people who voted for Barack Obama in 2008, those who are likely to be most disappointed are those who thought that they were voting for a new post-racial era. There was absolutely nothing in Obama's past to lead to any such expectation, and much to suggest the exact opposite. But the man's rhetoric and demeanor during the election campaign enabled this and many other illusions to flourish.

As Obama's own books point out, he has for years cultivated a talent for saying things that people will find congenial.

You want bipartisanship and an end to bickering in Washington? He will say that he wants bipartisanship and an end to bickering in Washington. Then he will shut Republicans out of the decision-making process and respond to their suggestions by reminding them that he won the election.

You want a government that is open instead of secretive? He will say that. He will promise to post proposed legislation on the Internet long enough for everyone to read it and know what is in it before there is a vote. In practice, however, he has rushed massive bills through Congress too fast for anybody-- even the members of Congress-- to know what was in those bills.

Racial issues are more of the same. You want a government where all citizens are treated alike, regardless of race or ethnicity? Obama will say that. Then he will advocate appointing judges with "empathy" for particular segments of the population, such as racial minorities. "Empathy" is just a pretty word for the ugly reality of bias.

Obama's injecting himself into a local police matter in Massachusetts, despite admitting that he didn't know the facts, to say that a white policeman was in the wrong in arresting a black professor who was a friend of Obama, was more of the of the same.
There is not now, nor has there ever been, anything post-racial about Barack Obama.

Posted by: gorasaab | July 20, 2010 7:44 PM | Report abuse


The farmer is alive, ill but alive. CNN is really eating other media outlets' lunches on this story. What happened to good ole fashion reporting?

Posted by: cleancut77 | July 20, 2010 8:00 PM | Report abuse

Why did she quit

Posted by: jblast2000 | July 20, 2010 8:08 PM | Report abuse

We have a right to know about all of the radicals, marxists and anti-American zealots that work for the Obama administration. Why is the media covering for these subversives?

Posted by: tulsadave | July 20, 2010 8:09 PM | Report abuse

Shirley Sherrod's full unedited video speech to the Awards Banquet is posted here-

When Pres. Obama was elected I really thought that my country could get back to 'the reality based community.'

Not the 'reality' of whatever Bush, Darth, and the Rethug operatives 'said it was.'

Man, was I ever wrong.

Posted by: Gracefulboomer | July 20, 2010 9:36 PM | Report abuse

Sherrod was definitely done wrong, but I can only laugh when Capeheart whines that "Comments are taken out of context. Motives are questioned."

No kidding Jonathan. Perhaps you might stick up for others who are treated this way.

Posted by: bobmoses | July 20, 2010 9:38 PM | Report abuse

Kindly quit your "Can't we all get along?" act Mr. Capehart.

You smugly demean your opponents every glorious chance you get.

You love pulling out the race card. It is your ace in the hole, Ace.

Posted by: adamnescot1 | July 20, 2010 10:27 PM | Report abuse

Ms. Sherrod is more than a sacrificial lamb. She is the victim of an "ELECTRONIC LYNCHING," to quote Clarence Thomas' famous phrase. Ms. Sherrod is much more the victim of an electronic lynching, in fact, than Thomas was. She had the might of an entire news network plus the conservative lie-osphere (unlike Sarah Palin, I made up that word on purpose) against her. And the depressing thing is that the White House is in such a panic over the effectiveness of conservative distortion and smear tactics that it joined the lynch mob. And the mob has lynched not only Ms. Sherrod, but free speech about any subject more complex "liberal, bad; real America, good." I hope that, if they do not apologize to her, Ms. Sherrod sues Andrew Breitbart and Fox News for character assassination, for about a billion dollars.

Posted by: MikeC5 | July 20, 2010 10:35 PM | Report abuse

Borrowing from Joseph Welch's comments to Senator Joseph McCarthy during the 1950's Army-McCarthy hearings, have the people who spread this bogus story about Shirley Sherrod no sense of decency left? Just change a few words in the following quote from Mr. Welch:

"Let us not assassinate this lad further, Senator.... You've done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?"

This whole episode is disgusting. When are the American people going to catch on, as they finally did during the McCarthy era, that the perpetrators of this garbage are little more than a bunch of reckless and dishonest bullies? Watch the entire video of Ms. Sherrod's allegedly racist remarks on the NAACP web site and decide for yourself what king of person she is.

Posted by: borgrav | July 20, 2010 10:39 PM | Report abuse

Sacrificial lamb doesn't begin to described what has happened to Ms. Sherrod. All videos should be shown beginning to end. This is as honest about race as you can get. I greatly admire this women she is exactly who I would want in charge, of anything. She should be reinstated immediately and given a public apology from all involved. I am terribly disturbed by how she was dismissed without a shred of evidence, do the people in our government not care about the law, even those that hold law degrees? Sickening.

Posted by: Todayusa | July 20, 2010 10:49 PM | Report abuse

I agree, it appears as if Ms. Sherrod is getting the short end of the stick on this one....but it's a play right out of the Liberal playbook. Who can forget the trailer for the movie Fahrenheit 9/11 by Michael Moore where he showed Bush playing golf and making a statement about bringing terrorists to justice before stating the now infamous line "now watch me hit this shot". Moore used this footage in an effort to portray Bush playing golf right after the country's largest national tragedy. The reality was that this footage was taken out of context and he wasn't even talking about 9/11 but rather a Palestine/Israel conflict. But like a retraction the next day following a misprint or an error in a newspaper, nobody ever learns the truth. There is no making up for deliberating misleading the public no matter which side of the aisle you are on....and your newspaper is one of the worst offenders.

Just last week, your own Ombudsman took his employer (the WaPo) to task for not reporting on voter intimidation by the New Black Panther Party.

Jonathan, you do realize that selective editing is the same thing as selective reporting...something your newspaper does on a daily basis.

Your position is hypocrisy at its worst.

Posted by: d-35 | July 20, 2010 11:05 PM | Report abuse

The fact is that the Obama administration has been terrified of any issue involving racial controversy since the arrest of Henry Louis Gates last year. Because of that -- and because the NAACP failed to do its due diligence about a speech at one of its own events, and foolishly took the word of the Fox News Channel -- Ms. Sherrod has lost her job.

By the way -- to pcannady (the person who post the very first comment) -- by addressing Mr. Capehart as "homey" for no good reason, you expose your own prejudices.

Posted by: quincyxavier | July 20, 2010 11:12 PM | Report abuse

I have had enough! I am not black but this whole event sickens me!!! It is high time for the president along with the presidents of legitimate news organizations begin to call out Fox News for what it is: yellow journalism and propaganda at its finest. This organization must have a whole lot of white supremacists on the job there to do what they have done.

A poor woman who was telling a story was fired due to politics and manipulation! Fox news did nothing to investigate if this story was doctored or anything. That is not what real journalism is. It is supposed to have researched for facts before it is even reported. Fox news has a black eye and as a former watcher of Fox I will never believe or watch them again.

It is obvious they are drumming up anger in the white race because they know the vast majority of people in this nation are white, and many are not informed. They hope to influence the elections that way. Gross!

Furthermore we all know that the conservatives have long spent years catapulting the propaganda, as Bush said. They have bought out radio stations, tv stations, newspapers, judges, and any other groups that would advance their agenda. Much like BP has tried to hire all marine scientists so no one can testify against them. It is downright evil!

Time to call a spade a spade! Reinstate her and sic the FCC on these companies!

Posted by: sandnsmith | July 21, 2010 12:10 AM | Report abuse

This really destroys the credibility of the NAACP. Does anyone think they put any more research or consideration into their denunciation of the Tea Party than they did into their denunciation of Sherrod? How many times can someone go off thoughtlessly and half-cocked before everything that person says starts to seem irrelevant?

Posted by: tomtildrum | July 21, 2010 12:51 AM | Report abuse

your heart sink as the truth was revealed? mine was uplifted. must be the difference between us.

Posted by: daphne5 | July 21, 2010 12:51 AM | Report abuse

I don't recall Mr. Capehart or the Black politicians gave George W Bush the benefit of the doubt during the 2000 Election when the NAACP ran that horrible add, accusing Bush for being a racist because he opposed the hate crime legislation even though the racist convict was executed for his crime. Now the shoe is on the other foot and Mr. Capehart suddenly discover civility. Give me a break!

Posted by: davevu | July 21, 2010 1:44 AM | Report abuse

The USDA needs to hire her back. That's the only way to make this a little bit right. She was the victim of an awful hatchet job.
And she should sue Big "Journalism" and Fox News.

Posted by: mypitts2 | July 21, 2010 2:50 AM | Report abuse

Get over the race thing people. Everybody running around calling people racists is not solving anything. It's being used for political purposes and Ms. Sherrod got sacrificed.

So give this nice lady her job back and don't be so quick to judge.

Her story turned out to be quite inspiring.

Do the right thing.

Posted by: Rubiconski | July 21, 2010 5:04 AM | Report abuse


Seems this WH has no problem jumping the gun when it comes to condemning people, white or black, on race before all the facts are in.

Remember the officers who arrested Henry Louis Gates? Didn't BHO say they acted "stupidly" before he had all the facts?

How about the prosecution of the Duke lacrosse players?

How about Al Sharpton during the Tawana Brawley case and how he tried to destroy Stephen Pagones?

Stop whining. Politically active black America got a taste of its own medicine.

Posted by: Hk45 | July 21, 2010 6:27 AM | Report abuse

Isnt it amazing how the White House always denies everything. they are never involved in any decisions !!! Imagine that folks !!! They never knew,, they didnt say,m the were misquoted...always some spin on something from the Obama regime...How bout they concetrate on real racism- like their refusal to prosecute the black Panthers or the leader who wants to kill white people and "cracker Babies. " Why dont we talk about them and the racism that runs rampant in this fairy tale Administration of incompetents !!!

Posted by: JUNGLEJIM123 | July 21, 2010 6:53 AM | Report abuse

I usually disagree with you 100% but I gotta say, this is a great example of Fox gone wild. I try to get news from many sources through out the day (morning joe in the am/cnn mid day/fox after 6) and Fox CLEARLY had this running for a reason and did not flush out the story and in my opinion really went our of their way to push as racist.
I am tempted to say the other side does this as well, but I've come to expect that.
Sad for all of us if we can't get the actual news anymore....

Posted by: dcjayhawk2 | July 21, 2010 6:54 AM | Report abuse

The tea party IS full of racists. Fox news and the rigthwing blogs lied about this lady in order to try and manufacture a racist incident.

Posted by: vamonticello
This story broke before Fox News aired it. The NAACP has to take responsibility for this one. They condemned Sharrod before they bothered to view the entire video, which, by the way, was the property of the NAACP. Similar to their blanket statement that the Tea Party is a racist organization.

Posted by: bethg1841 | July 21, 2010 7:36 AM | Report abuse

The NAACP is full of racists. MSNBC news and the leftwingers on the blogs lied about the Jeremiah Wright in order to try and manufacture a racist incident.


for a story the WAPO will not report..

Posted by: hartwr1 | July 21, 2010 7:43 AM | Report abuse

Hey Capie, why not an op-ed condemning the so-called reporters on Journolist, a private blog that was started by Ezra Klein here at the Post, who conspired to play the race card against conservatives and FOX News in 2008 as a way for the MEDIA to provide cover for Obama when the videos of the racist Rev Wright were released.

Talk about a teachable moment in biased journalism.

Talk about a teachable moment in how the left, the Obama crowd, and so-called reporters play the race card.

And you would have us believe the Tea Party is racist! What a hoot. The VAST majority of racists in this country reside in the Dem Party, organizations like the NAACP, and the unbiased mainstream media!

Posted by: hartwr1 | July 21, 2010 7:54 AM | Report abuse

Maybe now WaPo and other MSM will stop taking their articles; talking points; stories from Fox and Breitbart. He's a known liar and tape editor but MSM continues to peddle the lies and distortions.

Posted by: rlj1 | July 21, 2010 7:54 AM | Report abuse

Every story does not require a re-hash of golden oldies. Mistakes should be corrected, and it is not evidence that a mistake was not made to find some earlier mistake made by somebody else. The guy at Tea Party Express is a bigot, and this lady is not. It's good the Tea Party booted him, and it's good she has been vindicated.

Posted by: markfromark | July 21, 2010 8:17 AM | Report abuse

Okay... so what have we learned from this? Recall the Van Jones debacle in concert, the ACORN pimp/idiot farce plus the Sherrod mishandling, and I suggest that the administration should STOP jerking a knee every time Andrew Breibart, Matt Drudge and/or Faux News "report" what will inevitably turn out to be a bald-faced lie. Assume Drudge, Breitbart and Faux News are lying and we'll all be better off... because they probably ARE LYING!

Posted by: CardFan | July 21, 2010 9:32 AM | Report abuse

Pandering to Breitbart and the like (even that self-important knucklehead Krauthammer) isn't "attuning" to conservativism, it's enabling conflagration.

Posted by: KevinShinn | July 21, 2010 9:37 AM | Report abuse


And as long we can continue to focus on racism, both real and imagined, the less time we have focus, on jobs, the economy, debt, taxes, and the other failures of the Obama administration.

The lady should not have been fired. To pretend that she was fired due to the national aversion to race is misleading. She was sacrificed because the Democrats and their supporters wanted to attack the opposition and shift the headlines away from jobs and the economy.

Posted by: TECWRITE | July 21, 2010 9:38 AM | Report abuse

Eric Holder is right. We are cowards when it comes to talking about race, and for good reason, apparently.

Posted by: lmmbham | July 21, 2010 10:06 AM | Report abuse

The farmer is NOT alive. His wife is alive and gave interviews to CNN and others.

Posted by: joejoe5 | July 21, 2010 10:13 AM | Report abuse

Evil Fox News is at the root of all our problems. Were it not for Fox, Mr. Obama would have pulled the economy out of the ditch, unemployment would be an afterthought and we would have peace in Israel, no more terrorism and everyone would have healthcare with unlimited benefits and it would be cheaper.

The Obama administration is on the wrong track and all the Capeharts in the world can't change the public's growing discovery of that reality. Mr. Capehart lives like Obama in some alternate universe, which is fine, because in a free country, that is his right. But we don't have to listen to him just because he is a foo1. In fact, watching him is more like continualy running your tongue over a hole in your tooth............inexplicable, mindless, and ultimately painful.

Posted by: buggerianpaisley1 | July 21, 2010 10:41 AM | Report abuse

Somebody please say you're sorry, give her the job back, and move on. The cow chips are going to fall on the two Washington people whether they like it or not. Too many mistakes reflected on the President now to stop the Republicans from winning the White House again. Voters will not tolerate more incompetence unless there's no viable alternative waiting in line. Thank you, Ms. Sherrod, for being a Christian American in all of this. Your political future looks bright.

Posted by: bobo54t | July 21, 2010 12:08 PM | Report abuse

Love that NAACP crowd cheering as she was talking about sticking it to the white farmer.

Posted by: zap123 | July 21, 2010 12:12 PM | Report abuse

FOX is the terrorist within the US.
They are tearing America apart more than any outside entity could hope for.
They are indeed the FOX in the Henhouse--creating mayhem and discord within.
All for $$

Posted by: tigerbon | July 21, 2010 2:19 PM | Report abuse

FOX is the terrorist within the US.
They are tearing America apart more than any outside entity could hope for.
They are indeed the FOX in the Henhouse--creating mayhem and discord within.
All for $$

Posted by: tigerbon | July 21, 2010 2:20 PM | Report abuse

Sherrod for Congress! Big Mo is in your corner! You sound intelligent, compassionate and someone who could represent we the people and you have the understanding of the best and worse of how our govt works or doesn't work! Don't hide! You have a lot to say! Linda Joy Adams-facebook

Posted by: LindaJoyAdams | July 21, 2010 3:04 PM | Report abuse

After much consideration I have come to the unavoidable conclusion that most of those on the right are possessed of an incurable mental disorder. Racism. Bred into the bone. It is imbedded and simply incurable. For them it's a psychological necessity and they just can't help it. I really can't see any other explanation.

Sorry about that, America.

Posted by: jhncrsp | July 21, 2010 4:10 PM | Report abuse

Jonathan Capehart's comments about Shirley Sherrod could apply to the Tea Party, couldn't they? He is playing dumb. ALL editing is selective. This is exactly the right-wing criticism of conventional MSM coverage - they have their narrative in place, and pick and choose in order to support that narrative. When guerrilla journalists - almost exclusively those on the Right - do the same thing, the Jonathan Capeharts complain that there is something unusual about it. Breitbart's target was the NAACP and its race-baiting (grovel to us to prove you are not a white racist), not Shirley Sherrod. Some people seem to have idea comprehension problems.

Posted by: markrichardc | July 22, 2010 8:40 AM | Report abuse

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