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'Reverse Racism' Is a Weapon of Mass Distraction | The Nation

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'Reverse Racism' Is a Weapon of Mass Distraction

Andrew Breitbart, the blogger who helped destroy ACORN with heavily edited, racially tinged videos (the unedited versions of which have still not been released), just scored another victory over reverse racism, proving once and for all that it’s just like old-fashioned, regular racism: when it occurs, it's always a black person who suffers.

If you need to search for culprits in the railroading of USDA worker Shirley Sherrod, Breitbart is the obvious heel, but hardly the only one. (Tip to kids who live in Ag Sec Tom Vilsack's neighborhood: this Halloween, dress up like Glenn Beck, and the Vilsack household won't just give you all the candy you want, they'll shoot the family dog and cook it up for you.)

The real creeps are anyone in the media who excuses or erases the role played by Breitbart, Fox News, and the Tea Party blogosphere in smearing Sherrod as a racist.

I say that because, once the full video had proven that Sherrod was not shooting off bigoted remarks but actually explaining how she overcame her own bias against whites (and after the white farmer’s wife had confirmed that Sherrod saved the family farm from auction and was a “friend for life”), the right-wing media turned on a dime and gave us nine cents change. Following Breibart’s lead, the winger media began parroting the line that the controversy wasn’t about Breitbart or Sherrod herself but about the NAACP calling the Tea Party racist, and about NAACP members laughing when Sherrod said she had been tempted to do the wrong thing. To do that, they had to write Breitbart out of the story. The villains, they insist, are the NAACP and the Obama administration: those two organizations—both headed by African-Americans, BTW—fell for some silly ol’ video and beat up on Sherrod, who the right is now trying to claim as their sister in victimhood. As conservative David Frum writes:

There will be not even a flutter of interest among conservatives in discussing Breitbart’s role. By the morning of July 21, the Fox & Friends morning show could devote a segment to the Sherrod case without so much as a mention of Breitbart’s role. The central fact of the Sherrod story has been edited out of the conservative narrative, just as it was edited out of the tape itself.

It’s true that the NAACP and Vilsack acted like Pavlovian dogs, conditioned to cower before endlessly replayed video on rightwing TeeVee. But the overreactions on the left and on the right are in no way equal. NAACP head Ben Jealous made a heartfelt and cogent apology for allowing himself to be “snookered” into throwing Sherrod under the bus; Vilsack not only offered Sherrod an apology and her job back, he tried to get her to accept some sort of promotion, apparently to help clear the massive overhang of minority lawsuits against the agriculture department left over from the Bush years.

On the other hand, on the basis of the edited tape, Beck bashed Sherrod as a reverse racist on his morning radio show ("Have we suddenly transported into 1956, except it's the other way around?” he queried). Later that afternoon, as word of the full video was coming out, he defended her on his Fox show, bashing anyone (though not himself or Breitbart) who was stupid enough to take her speech out of context. At the same time, he kept hurling reverse racism charges, asking, "When was the last time the NAACP didn't give someone the benefit of the doubt right away who was African-American?”

As for Breitbart, well, he’s still being reverse-whipped on his reverse-plantation, crying out in anguish, “How long, O Lord?” Last night on John King show, Breitbart didn’t so much defend the cleverly edited smear he’d promoted as try to change the subject, harping repeatedly on videos that he insists “prove beyond a shadow of a doubt” that the Congressional Black Caucus members who said they were called the N-word at a Capitol Hill Tea Party rally back in March are lying to make the TP look racist. (Here are the videos and they prove nothing.) More weirdly, Breitbart suggested  that Sherrod was hoodwinking CNN, asking King, “You're going off of her word that the farmer's wife is the farmer's wife.”

Let’s be clear about the media hoopla over reverse racism this past month, from Rush Limbaugh’s claim that Obama is causing high unemployment as a “payback” for black slavery to Michelle Bachmann’s assertion that Obama is creating “a nation of slaves” to Fox host Megyn Kelly’s eye-popping claims that the New Black Panther Party is somehow immune to prosecution by the Obama justice department: We are not in a race relations crisis. We are in an economic crisis. And these manufactured racial melodramas are meant to frighten Vilsackian Democrats to never dare do anything that might ruffle Tea Party feathers, like push through a desperately needed second stimulus or nominate Elizabeth Warren as head of the consumer protection agency.

As Shirley Sherrod said in her speech, “It’s not about black and white, it’s about poor versus rich, and how the system works to keep it that way….

“[Historically, dividing the races had been] working so well, they said, Gosh, looks like we've come up on something here that can last generations—and here we are. Over 400 years later, and it's still working. What we have to do is get that out of our heads. There is no difference between us. The only difference is that the folks with money want to stay in power and whether it's health care or whatever it is, they'll do what they need to do to keep that power.”

Somehow, that part of her speech didn’t get much play on Fox.

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