Thursday, July 22, 2010

Thank You Shirley Sherrod

The controversy about Shirley Sherrod has been widely discussed lately. In a video released by Breitbart News, Sherrod tells an audience at an NAACP banquet about an incident in which she was supposed to help a white farmer who was facing foreclosure on his farm. Listening to the 2 minutes and 36 seconds provided by Breitbart News left many with the impression that Sherrod had simply sent him to a white lawyer and washed her hands of him.

The actual video, which was posted by the NAACP paints a very different picture. That 43 minute 14 second video was a very personal speech in which Sherrod described her life and ideological evolution. In the complete video, Sherrod describes an impassioned intervention with indifferent and incompetent lawyers to save the farm of Roger Spooner. Her story was corroborated by Roger Spooner and his wife Eloise.

The video was indeed newsworthy. An African American was stepping forward and speaking of her ideological and spiritual transformation. She spoke from the heart of a life full of heartbreak that she snatched from the jaws of bitterness with the aid of her religious faith. She spoke with equal conviction of her fondness for and pride in President Obama as well as her ideas about economics and the Bush administration. It was the kind of speech that leaves a conservative listener in disagreement with her conclusions yet fascinated with her personal and professional experiences.

Cropping Sherrod's speech was not "doctoring" it. But it created an impression of her beliefs that was totally false. It was wrong of Andrew Breitbart to have presented such an exercise in deceit as news.

Glenn Beck and other conservatives are vehemently and viscerally anti racist. A recurring theme on the Glenn Beck show is that all people can be racist, that it is a human condition not exclusive to any single race. Breitbart could have presented the entire video as a vindication of this viewpoint. Instead he chose to defame her with a misrepresentation of her entire speech, when he could have advanced a responsible conservative viewpoint by promoting the entire speech. In practicing such irresponsible journalism, Breitbart distracted attention from real, unrepentant racism that persists today.

I will not trust Andrew Breitbart for any "hot news" at all. The only reason to crop a speech is to present a synopsis, to convey in seconds what might otherwise take minutes to grasp. Any other use of editing is sleazy propaganda.

There is a bright side to the travails of Shirley Sherrod. She gave an excellent speech back in March. She deserved a far wider audience. Thanks to Breitbart News, her beliefs and life experiences will get a far wider dissemination. Thank you Shirley Sherrod for presenting your views. Contributions such as yours make personal transformation a contagious process. Thank you for sharing your experiences. I wish you success.

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