Sherrod is now heralded as a symbol of a black woman unfairly victimized by the wretched, vicious, racist tactics of Breitbart in particular and the "right wing" in general. CNN aired an hourlong story on her life. Outlets printed stories about her upbringing in segregated Georgia, where she worked as a civil rights activist. We learned that when Sherrod was 17, a white man shot her father in the back and an all-white grand jury declined to indict. She married a minister named Charles Sherrod, a respected longtime civil rights activist and founding member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.
But what about the rest of Shirley Sherrod's NAACP speech?
She made this observation about those who opposed ObamaCare: "I haven't seen such mean-spirited people as I've seen lately over this issue of health care. Some of the racism we thought was buried. Didn't it surface? (Audience responds approvingly.) Now, we endured eight years of the Bushes, and we didn't do the stuff these Republicans are doing because you have a black president."
So the self-proclaimed colorblind woman attributes legitimate opposition to the government takeover of health care ... to racism.
And what motivated Breitbart to post the out-of-context excerpt? Was Breitbart erroneously, but in good faith, using it to hold the NAACP to the same standard the organization asks of the Tea Party? Not according to Sherrod. She told CNN: "I know I've gotten past black vs. white. He's probably the person who's never gotten past it and never attempted to get past it. ... I think he would like to get us stuck back in the times of slavery. That's where I think he'd like to see all black people end up again. ... I think that's why he's so vicious against a black president, you know. He would go after me. I don't think it was even the NAACP he was totally after. I think he was after a black president."
This from someone who's "gotten past black vs. white"?
Her husband, the Rev. Sherrod, spoke this year at the University of Virginia School of Law. In the half-hour excerpt posted on YouTube, he talks about the evolution of the black struggle for freedom and equality and about his personal experiences with prejudice and brutality. He said he found inspiration from the Rev. Martin Luther King's vision of a society that judges people by the content of their character. But the Rev. Sherrod later said: "Finally, we must stop the white man and his Uncle Toms from stealing our elections. We must not be afraid to vote black, and we must not be afraid to turn a black out who votes against our interests." He provided no example, explanation or elaboration.
Breitbart erred in not viewing the entire NAACP speech. But neither this nor the past racist experiences of Shirley and Charles Sherrod justify giving them a pass for their own racist comments.