Last week, Andrew Breitbart's Big Government website released a heavily edited video of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Georgia State Director of Rural Development Shirley Sherrod speaking to the NAACP. That video appeared to show Sherrod talking about how she had, in the past, discriminated against a white farmer seeking help to save his land. The clip ignored Sherrod's further statement that working with the white farmer "made me see that it's really about those who have versus those who don't, you know. And they could be black, and they could be white; they could be Hispanic."
Based on the edited clip, the Obama administration quickly fired Sherrod from her position. When the rest of the tape was released by the NAACP, however, the administration blamed Breitbart and Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack for the screw-up, and then offered her a new job position.
The media's narrative immediately crystallized: right-wing blogger releases out-of-context quotes as a purposeful smear; Shirley Sherrod is a martyred saint; President Obama is not black enough because he fired Sherrod.
There's only one problem with that narrative: It's wrong on every single count.
First, the quote from Sherrod was out of context. But the context the media found was also out of context. The speech makes clear that Sherrod is a Marxist rather than a racist, but that she has racial tendencies nonetheless. In that NAACP speech, Sherrod encouraged black people to find jobs at the USDA because "Have you heard of anybody in the federal government losing their job?" She claimed that white elites created racism out of whole cloth in order to maintain their class status. Then she went even further, characterizing resistance to President Obama's health care overhaul as racist. As Sherrod herself put it, "it is about white and black, but it's not."
Second, Sherrod is no saint. Yes, she suffered an extraordinarily horrific childhood -- her father was murdered by racist whites, she watched a cross being burned on her lawn. But she has spent her life acting as a racial separatist and quasi-shakedown artist.
Shirley has stated that she believes school integration is one of the "worst things that happened to black people," since integration supposedly undermined black self-sufficiency. She has also stated that she believes that "the government is supposed to be a force for keeping blacks on the land, but it hasn't at all."