On Monday, the Department of Agriculture demanded the resignation of Shirley Sherrod over a two-minute videotape where she appeared to describe to a cheering crowd of the Georgia NAACP how she denied assistance to a poor white farmer about to lose his land.
Declaring itself "appalled" at this "shameful" act of racism, the NAACP said it would investigate the Georgia crowd that cheered her and praised the Department of Agriculture for firing her.
On Wednesday, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack was begging for Sherrod's forgiveness, and the NAACP was burbling apologies.
For the video turned out to be an excerpt from a speech in which Sherrod described her growth from a bitter black woman whose father was murdered by a white man into one who found joy helping poor white folks keep their farms.
What was it that caused the rush to judgment by Vilsack, the NAACP and a White House that supported the ouster of Sherrod without talking to her or viewing the full tape?
Panic. The White House fears it is losing white America because of a false perception that it harbors a bias against white America.
Outrageous, rail those journalists who celebrated the NAACP's accusation that the tea party is harboring racists and is too cowardly to confront them.
Yet, as things perceived as real are real in their consequences, if the White House does not eradicate this perception, its lease may not be renewed. Whence comes that perception? Several incidents.
First was the startling accusation by Attorney General Eric Holder, days after Barack Obama was inaugurated in a gusher of good feeling, that we are all "a nation of cowards" when it comes to facing issues of race.
A real icebreaker for a national conversation.
Second was the instantaneous verdict of the president, when asked about the arrest of Harvard's Henry Louis Gates by Cambridge cop Sgt. James Crowley. With no knowledge of what happened, Obama blurted out that the cops had "acted stupidly."
It took a White House beer summit to detoxify that one.
A third was the revelation that Obama's first Supreme Court nominee, Judge Sonia Sotomayor, the "wise Latina" herself, had gone to extremes to see that the case of Frank Ricci and the New Haven, Conn., firefighters never got to the Supreme Court. Ricci and co-defendants had been denied promotions they had won in competitive exams solely because they were white and no black firemen had done as well.
The fourth was the Justice Department's dropping of charges against members of the New Black Panther Party, whose intimidation of voters in Philadelphia had been captured on tape.