Shirley Sherrod: A Lesson in White Victimhood

A recent post I wrote for Change.org, examining why the Shirley Sherrod controversy was intended to resonate amongst White viewers:

Shirley Sherrod: A Lesson in White Victimhood

Back in March, the speech Shirley Sherrod gave before the NAACP seemed innocuous enough. In it, the Obama appointee urged her audience to heed the words of Toni Morrison, declaring, “we have to get to the point where race exists, but it doesn’t matter.” Sherrod — the current state director of rural development — also movingly recounted how her attitudes toward race have shifted since growing up in the South, at a time when lynchings were still commonplace.

Yesterday, though, Fox News managed to twist Sherrod’s words. The network aired a video that was edited to suggest Sherrod currently discriminates against white farmers. (View the edited video here.). As edited, the video suggests Sherrod has previously tried to avoid having to actually help a white farmer keep his land — and that she made this decision based on the color of his skin.

Actually, what Sherrod discussed was how her views on race changed after witnessing how a white farmer whose land was being foreclosed suffered the same apathy and mistreatment at the hands of wealthy whites that she’d seen black farmers experience. Ultimately, she encouraged her audience to view the world not just in terms of black and white, but in terms of “haves” and “have nots.” (Full speech here — the relevant anecdote is around minute 17.)

But so much for “fair and balanced.” Instead, Fox News chose to insinuate that Sherrod actively discriminates against whites in her current job with the administration. Fox News also went a step further to argue that the NAACP was backing Sherrod’s supposed discrimination against whites.

Sherrod holds a fairly obscure position within the Obama administration, and it’s plain that the edited video that surfaced was just that — edited, and heavily so. So why the sudden controversy?

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