Broad Sympathy for Some; Broader Skepticism for Others

By Ta-Nehisi Coates


My piece on Obama and race ends with an interview with Shirley Sherrod. One thing that bugged me about the bipartisan praise heaped on Andrew Breitbart when he died, was how little it reckoned with what exactly Breitbart had done. 

Sherrod's appointment to the USDA was not merely symbolic. In Southwest Georgia, and throughout the South, black farmers lost land (Sherrod included) because of the agency's discriminatory practices, well into the 1980s. Sherrod's involvement meant an end to that in the most practical sense. As she told me, it meant that the very people she'd once been fighting with, were now working for her.

Andrew Breitbart claimed, in the video above:

Accusing a person of racism is the worst thing that you can do in this country.

He then said this of Shirley Sherrod:

In this piece you will see video evidence of racism coming from a federal appointee and NAACP award recipient and in another clip from the same event a perfect rationalization for why the Tea Party needs to exist.

He was wrong. He didn't not react to being wrong by offering an apology, but by changing his argument. Breitbart claimed accusing someone of racism to be moral sin, committed that sin, and then acted like nothing happened. No one knows whether he doctored the footage or not. No one wants to know. 

There was some commentary over whether my piece was "angry." It is angry. And I am angry. And you should be too. The Duke rape case was great travesty, an utter miscarriage of justice. But some travesties are worth more than others.

Watch the video. You'll see a man accusing someone else of the very practices which became his speciality.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2012/08/broad-sympathy-for-some-broader-skepticism-for-others/261547/