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The Affaire Breitbart Starring Shirley Sherrod

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The saga of Shirley Sherrod and the 24 hour news cycle is one of these Greek styled dramas in which the climax involves the ancient "deus ex machina" device; the ending doesn't grow out of the actual event, but from a contrived, outside insertion, pushing a special agenda. The internet plays the role of the giant crane the Greeks used to allow a new character to suddenly appear from offstage to manipulate a story. Fending rage in the name of a revealed truth, the "god they manipulate by their own hands" (a rough translation of "deus ex machina") leads the real truth to a trap door where it instantly disappears.

Yet deeply embedded in this "search for truth" supposedly revealed by the original internet posting is the idea that those who stand up for civil rights want to and fully intend to take rights away from white people. This is an old saw, dating to slavery, used during the fight against segregation and job discrimination; that the advancement of rights for all means the denial of rights for some, especially whites. Racism in this instance is now being equated with the denial of rights to whites. The label of racism now tells whites over and over: you lose. You are the victims. As truth, Ms. Sherrod's real intent disappears; this "real" (read: contrived!) truth is what immediately pops through the door of the trap!

This dangerous message is being covered up by the righteous outpouring of sympathy that Ms. Sherrod richly deserves. Her father killed by whites, in a murder with witnesses in which nothing was done, she has taken the long journey to forgiveness and embraced, as a consequence of her personal tragedy, the more noble idea that no one of any color, background, or income level should suffer because of these circumstances.

Yet the person who posted the edited segment (who surely had the whole tape!) points to members of the audience appearing to support a position of inequality. This is a gross distortion of a cultural tradition, again substituting the contrived for the real. In truth, the nods and apparent signs of acceptance at that point in her story were expressions of empathy, a self recognition by those in the crowd that they had been there too, that they knew this journey, that they too had stepped along its path and walked in those shoes, before reaching higher ground. What was seen was no more than the congregation of a black church on Sunday empathizing with the preacher's description or confession of a personal sin. The congregation, as Ms. Sherrod's audience did, embraces this testimony common to all, acknowledging the act that was then transformed by Grace. It is Grace that leads to a better day and a clean heart.

This audience role of empathy, of saying and signifying "we are with you," has a long standing and well documented tradition and history in the cultural communications of the African-American community. It is how Grace is affirmed, in the church or in public, or even in the supermarket as I have witnessed. It should not be reframed, misinterpretated, and distorted for the grotesque advancement of an agenda of race baiting, hate, and division; it should not be seen as a "got cha" moment.

It should not be used to document an agenda that simpy doesn't exist, either in that speech--or in the high unemployment which is supposedly the Muslim African Socialist President's payback to white people for slavery. However ludicrous, the common message in all of this contrived gibberish is clear: white people lose when others gain. Those who stand for civil rights only really want to take away the rights of whites. Civil rights is only a code word and cover for racism--against whites! Therefore, "we" must intervene.

Unfortunately, that message has been put out, passed on, and remains; effectively lingering in some quarters whether Ms. Sherrod is re-hired or moves on. And the story of that message will be overlooked in the story of what happens next.

Thanks for reading! /wr. Please stir the Perlo, leave a comment. Image used under fair use.

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