“Have you ever seen such a bunch of self-righteous, ass-covering prigs? They don’t care what we do; they care what we get photographed doing.”
So the armies of humility are lining up on the left & right of the blogosphere, as well as cable-teevee-pundit-land and Planet Newspaper, to apologize for driving Shirley Sherrod out of a job. I’ve reviewed the forty-three minutes myself, and although the seamy footage makes it clear this is still less than what actually took place, it’s undeniable that the spirit of her remarks is different than what I thought. So do I have some crow to eat?
Perhaps just a smidgen. A wing. A foot, maybe. Well, let’s get it choked down. Clean your plate when crow is on it, for if you leave leftovers you should expect a steady diet of it.
The wasp is dead, the nest remains.
Ms. Sherrod, according to her own words, was a Little Hitler. Check that chart; third column, fourth row, the Petty Tyrant.
Can there be any doubt we still have some petty tyrants?
The nest does remain. Sherrod’s wasp is dead, but it has been dead for a very long time now. That was the point of her speech. The edited version makes it seem that there is something very different going on. My assumption that no context could leverage the spirit into something different, was somewhat rash. Partly correct, partly incorrect. Ultimately, I have to admit I placed an excessive abundance of faith in the edited version. Got snookered. Might as well admit it.
So now Breitbart has some ‘splainin’ to do? No, not at all. In fact, his point stands, and rather solidly. The whole point to showing it in the first place was to examine this claim that the Tea Party has racism in its ranks, and needs to do a more forceful job of policing its own. It is an argument of “don’t criticize your brother for the splijter in his eye when you have a beam in your own.” This point is actually strengthened by the events of the last 48 hours. The NAACP was able to confront its accuser, release the footage, use the media to entice the public to pay attention while the iron was still hot. And as frosting on the cake, they were able get another lie out there about Fox News being responsible for Sherrod’s sacking.
Such a dizzying, dazzling assortment of privileges for the NAACP! I wonder, if the footage had been about a Tea Party member saying equally racist things, would that informal coalition have been similarly indulged? Do I even need to ask the question.
So yes, I was “snookered” about Ms. Sherrod as a person. My crow-eating begins and ends there. Her comments about her own behavior stand, monument-like, as a testament to institutionalized racism. And how reformed is she, anyway? As John Hawkins points out, this is open to question. From all the evidence we have about her, there really isn’t much to indicate she’s ready for a post-racial world. It remains an unsettled issue, one to which I do not assign much weight, but one that is besieged with suggestive noise on all sides. There is doubt, and I’m not inclined to grant her much benefit of the doubt.
But let’s grant it all anyway. She realized she was being a horse’s ass, cleaned up her act, and that’s what happens to all the racists in these agencies? The entire story is kaput because of Ms. Sherrod’s Scrooge-like conversion? I don’t think so.
And this gets into the actual point that I don’t see anyone making anywhere. It has to do with the two halves of that part of humanity that thinks about these things.
My half says that individuals have rights, and these rights are regularly violated by institutions like the NAACP.
The other half, which has all of the voice, all of the time, says the institutions are the ones with the rights. People just gum things up. The institutions are perfect, or can be made that way by means of identifying the contaminating people and tossing ’em overboard. Let’s call this the Vilsack Doctrine.
This is why I’m being somewhat stingy with my apology. To me, it was never about Shirley Sherrod. Firing her was just a bizarre, wrong-headed move, and it would remain that even if the footage was exactly what it appeared to be. Adam and Eve bit into the apple, humanity has been corrupted and corruptible ever since, and institutions that are made out of humanity are no better than the people who build them and work in them.
If I’ve got a terrible problem with keeping my farm, and I’m describing my plight to some pencil-pushing bureaucrat who decides I’m acting superior to him just because my skin is white — that black bureaucrat is well within his rights to think such a thing. You get to think mistaken things. We don’t have a government that regulates that.
So President Jealous of the NAACP can grandstand and spread more lies, and Vilsack and Obama can apologize…all they want. These fine gentlemen still miss the point. The point is that the “Could Be Construed As” standard is unattainable and irrelevant. It is not impropriety, it is not the appearance of impropriety — we’re never going to solve a single problem by ending the careers of people who become tainted by it, no matter what the color of their skin happens to be.
I am thankful that the heyday of this risible ritual has now passed, or at least I think it has. Today, if you asked most people about it and had an honest discussion about it, a consensus would emerge that agrees with my notion: You don’t fire bigots. You prove them wrong. Even if they have supervisory authority; we do not sentence people to losing their livelihoods and becoming wards of the state because of the appearance of the thoughts in their heads — this is not the way America was supposed to work. If you find your career is heading into a cul de sac because you happen to be working for a sexist or a bigot or a homophobe, that means you have a boss that hates you. It’s unfortunate, but welcome to the real world. It’s gonna happen to you again. It’s happened to me. It happens to everyone. Go work for someone else.
I’m not trying to be insensitive with that remark. What I’m pointing out is that we’ve tried the other method…the Vilsack method. Gave it a good go for a few decades. It has been a net loss, a failed experiment. It’s made people fearful for their jobs and their careers, and this has given them motivation to do all kinds of whacky, stupid, free-market-killing stuff.
Know how bad that can get? Last “sexual harassment training” I was forced to attend, they said something I found interesting and it’s probably the same thing they said at yours: The intent of the offender doesn’t matter, it’s the perception of the accuser that decides everything — and “these rules are put in place to provide a workplace that is comfortable for everyone.” SAME BREATH.
So a whack-job paranoid stranger with a random vendetta can end your career at any second. By bitching, the easiest thing in the world to do. Boy that really makes me feel comfortable. How ’bout you?
Worst of all, people don’t worry too much anymore about getting fired for genuinely screwing things up.
It’s called political correctness. And future generations will look back on it, I’m convinced, the same way we see fourteenth-century bedside-bloodletting.
Update: Andrew Breibart’s comment on it:
All I’m seeing is people right now seeing blood in the water and coming after me. And the amount of half-truths and falsehoods that are out there in the pursuit of taking me down because they perceive that I’m a threat, it’s astounding.
I believe that I’m held to a higher standard. If this video showed a picture of a Caucasian talking in the exact same way but talking about a black person with an audience affirming and clapping that behavior, the reporter would be getting a Pulitzer Prize right now.
Say what you want about the man, but he’s right about this. All of it; every word.
And it isn’t defensible.