When the NAACP’s Ben Jealous fired a reckless volley at the Tea Party, he missed his marked and struck an innocent woman.
One week ago tonight, the news cycle was alive with the excitement of a heavyweight fight. The NAACP’s Ben Jealous needed to raise money and restore a sagging membership. He decided to pick a fight with the Tea Party.
On Monday, the NAACP leaked a resolution to the Kansas City Star that stated:
The resolution … calls upon “all people of good will to repudiate the racism of the Tea Parties, and to stand in opposition to** its drive to push our country back to the pre-civil rights era. **[emphasis added]”
By painting as ‘racist’ the 20 million people who have attended a Tea Party event, the NAACP forced the hand of Tea Party organizers. That response came from the St. Louis Tea Party with a resolution condeming the NAACP for lowering itself into the gutter.
The fight continued into the Sunday talk shows. The NAACP backtracked, softened its resolution, and softened its rhetoric in the wake of criticism. At times, Ben Jealous even tried to claim he’d never said what he’d said.
Then on Monday, video emerged of a USDA bureaucrat, Shirley Sherrod, addressing an NAACP meeting. In the video, Sherrod talked about withholding information and assistance from farmer because the farmer was white. The audience approved. The woman was forced to resign under pressure from the White House. The NAACP denounced Sherrod’s blatant racism.
But that was only half the story.
If anyone had bothered to watch the whole tape (over 40 minutes long), they’d have learned Sherrod’s story was a story of redemption.
Shirley ended up going above and beyond to help the farmer save his farm. She got over his whiteness and helped his humanity. Though she tells her story in subtle tones, it is a rich story of transformation.
Starting fights is easy. I’ve done it myself. But the consequences are often far worse than intended. The suffering rarely limits itself to the combatants. There’s always collateral damage.
Perhaps the best thing to come from Ben Jealous’s recklessness was not a discussion of race, which I believe we have too many of. The lesson here is: be very careful before throwing the first stone, because you have no idea who it will strike.
I said nasty things about Shirley Sherrod yesterday online. I hope no one read them, but I know that’s a false hope. I am sorry. I should have waited for all of the facts, but I did not. Shame on me.
Take an hour and listen. You may not agree with everything Shirley says. That’s okay. But I don’t think you’ll be able to avoid the conclusion that is a good woman trying to do the Lord’s work the best she can with the life she’s given. That’s about as American as you get.
UPDATE: Or maybe not. Dan Riehl thinks I’m being a softy. Is she a Marxist and an unrepentant racist? I’ve been too willing to see the best in people before.
Dana Loesch has more. She points out that Sherrod calls out the NAACP for starting a fight where none was needed. But also points out that the “post-racial” Obama has intentionally fomented racial mistrust that has fostered this nasty environment.
Darin Morley: “Fifty years ago we were segregated by law. Today, we’re segregated by our own choices.”