Shirley Sherrod, as presented last Monday, was a woman robbed of history. The immediate history of her comments were removed, as anyone can see from the tape. But the broader history--the murder of her father by the Klan, her subsequent devotion to a war against domestic terrorists inaugurated by her rifle-toting mother, the sad years of unpunished murder of black people in the South, and the accompanying pillage of black farmland--was also necessarily excised. What you saw last week was rather profound--like a watching tribunal in which the zeal to render a verdict was only matched by the zeal to ignore all evidence.
I keep hearing people bantering about this notion of a national conversation on race, and I have finally figured out why it rankles so. This is a country where any variant of the phrase "slavery caused the Civil War" is still considered controversial, and where respectable intellectuals believe the NAACP and the Tea Party movement are two sides of the same coin. The NAACP has repeatedly cited "elements of the Tea Party" for racism, and yet the argument is just as repeatedly rendered as "the NAACP says the Tea Party is racist."