You know, I've long thought Bob Somerby is a dick, and here's why.
CAPTURING A WEEK THAT WAS (permalink): Pretty much everyone agrees that Shirley Sherrod is a good, decent person. For ourselves, we’ll throw in a very strong “admirable.” We strongly suggest that you review the part of her speech we posted on Tuesday, the part which deals with her family history from the 1960s. Just take in her mother’s life story! (See THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/27/10.)
Pretty much everyone agrees about Sherrod. For that reason, we’ll start by saying we thought she was pretty much wrong in what she said, in the highlighted statements below, about Andrew Breitbart. Sherrod spoke with Anderson Cooper, three days after Breitbart’s “edited” video clip led to Sherrod’s dismissal:
COOPER (7/22/10): I want to ask you about the man who first posted this edited clip of you, Andrew Breitbart. He said today—and I'm quoting him—he said, quote: “If anybody reads the sainted, martyred Sherrod’s entire speech, this person has not gotten past black vs. white.” Do you think you have gotten past black vs. white?
SHERROD: I know I have gotten past black vs. white. He's probably the person who has never gotten past it and never attempted to get past it. So, he can't see—because he has never tried and because he hasn't, he can't see what I have done to get past it. And he's not interested in what I have done to get past it. I don't think he's interested in seeing anyone get past it, because I think he would like to get us stuck back in the times of slavery. That's where I think he would like to see all black people end up again. And that's why I think he's so vicious.
COOPER: You think—you think he's racist?
SHERROD: Yes, I do. And I think that's why he's so vicious against a black president, you know. He wouldn’t go after me. I don't think it was even the NAACP he was totally after. I think he was after a black president.
Is Breitbart racist? We have no idea, nor can we imagine how Sherrod could know. At which point, of course, some white pseudo-liberals, gripping their catechisms, will rise indignantly from their chairs, trembling with indignation and insisting: But black people can just tell!
This brand of hapless white pseudo-liberalism has never helped anyone much.
Shirley Sherrod (checking) is black. (Re-confirming. Yep, black.)
What she is offering here is the perspective of a black person who has lived through horrible racism as to how Andrew Breitbart's behavior is bound to be perceived by, you know, a black person who has lived through horrible racism. This point may be essential.
What fascinates here is Somerby's jump to whatever the hell "hapless white psuedo-liberalism" is. Which is, uh, weird, as in, who cares?
Can we just pause for a moment and consider what black people feel, or if that makes anyone uncomfy, what Shirley Sherrod is likely to be feeling here? "I grew up with members of my family murdered by white people and their system, and this made me distrust white people and their system, and then I had an epiphany about how some white people need help through the system, and because I said that, I got called a racist, my reputation got pissed on, I got fired, and now if I dare to say white people and their system are unfair, I'm the oppressor?"
It is absolutely astounding to me how morally grotesque this whole situation is. Shirley Sherrod is grudgingly allowed to have a grievance, but we must never ever concede that she might, just might, have some experiential basis for her perceptions.
To put this another way, that the "conversation," such at is is, is all about how white people might feel about how Shirley Sherrod might not like them, and not about the behavior of Andrew Breitbart, is pretty fucked up.
Or to put it another way, in answer to Somerby, I think Sherrod might have suspicions about Breitbart being a racist because he race-baited her and got her fired. Just a hunch.