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Missing the point in the Shirley Sherrod incident

By now, most people have heard about the Shirley Sherrod-Andrew Breitbart-tea party-NAACP-racism scandal tape. In short, two parts of the tape were exposed at different times. It was a tape that allegedly disclosed racism within the NAACP. The Baltimore Sun claims that the racism charge was against Ms. Sherrod, and that if only the whole tape was disclosed it would show that she was explaining her transformation away from racism, and not that she was pleased with her previous actions of reverse discrimation against a white farmer ("Running scared at the USDA," editorial, July 23). Fox News and other news agencies also came to this same conclusion. The Obama administration fired her after seeing the first part of the tape out of fear of being upstaged and embarrassed by Fox News.

Everyone missed the point.

The reason the first part of the tape was emphasized wasn't to demonstrate that Ms. Sherrod was a racist but to show that there were members of the NAACP in the audience giving her their approval when she expressed her discriminatory intentions toward this white farmer; it showed the racist attitudes of some of those members, not of Ms. Sherrod. The second part of the tape had no bearing on the intentions of putting out the tape. Ms. Sherrod was only the stimulus; the audience was the focal point of the intentions of this tape. This is what Mr. Breitbart said he was trying to expose.

Ms. Sherrod was only a guest at the NAACP. Mr. Breitbart wanted to expose racism within the NAACP itself in retaliation for their claims of racism within the tea party. He had to know that a disclosure of the whole tape would disclose Ms. Sherrod's transformation; and if his intentions were to show her alleged racism, he would know it would obviously make him look like a fool. Thus, the only logical focal point was the reaction from the audience, who are members of the NAACP.

Even when Mr. Breitbart explained his intentions, people either did not hear him and jumped to the conclusion that Ms. Sherrod was the focal point of the tape; or when they did listen to him they rejected his claim, replacing it with their own bias, a bias that suited their sensitivities and fit their agenda. The subject of racism creates so much emotion that it clouds the judgment of far too many of us, including the so-called intellectuals and authority figures.

Donald Frost, Essex

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