Sherrod Charade: Updates From the Shirley Sherrod Matter

First, an apology: I was sick last week during the most explosive 72 hours of the Shirley Sherrod controversy. By the time I was back on my feet, she'd gotten her phone call from the President (vindication for progressives!) and declared that Andrew Breitbart wanted to go back to slavery (vindication for Breitbart!) Since then the only thing that has happened in public is something that did not happen: namely that Sherrod did not appear on any of the Sunday talk shows after dominating news coverage for the previous week.

Still, the Conservative Noise Machine has come up with some Sherrod news that - in a non-partisan media environment - would be covered by all of the just-the-fact-ma'am pros in the MSM.

First, Dan Riehl has the scoop of the week by finding a videotape of Charles Sherrod giving a speech castigating "the White Man and his Uncle Toms," just the sort of racial healing we look for from our civil rights leaders. Mr. Sherrod is temperamentally similar to his wife; they both prevent a quiet dignified face. But a dignified facade does not equal a dignified interior life. And, if there's one thing we've learned, the Sherrods public faces conceal simmering resentment that they have turned towards exacting racial spoils from the government. (full video is here, in case you are afraid Dan might have left out some juicy "context").

Next, Tom Blumer was the first person to note that the Sherrods became instant millionaires upon entering into a settlement of a class action suit they brought on behalf of black farmers supposedly victimized by USDA discrimination (during the Clinton administration!). Blumer was also quick to note that Sherrod's job at the USDA followed on the heels of the settlement.

Zombie looks at the numbers and finds that the payouts from the settlement exceeds the number of reasonable claimants:

Let’s accept as a point of fact that some African-American farmers were unfairly denied loans by racists in the USDA during the Clinton and Reagan administrations. I’m not casting any aspersions on the validity of the original lawsuit, nor on the courts’ rulings in the case.

But ponder the numbers.

• There are approximately 40,000 African-American farmers in the country.

• Of that 40,000, not all of them have gotten into financial trouble. Some have successful farms.

• Of those who had financial trouble, not all of them sought out loans. Some tried to stay afloat on their own.

• Of those who sought out loans, not all of them sought out loans from the USDA. Some got loans from banks or friends.

• Of those who sought out loans from the USDA, not all of them were denied loans. Some got the loans as requested.

• Of those who were denied loans, not all of them were denied due to discriminatory racial practices.

In the end, a total much much smaller than 40,000 could legitimately claim to be victims of discrimination.

As shown above, it was originally estimated to be no more than 2,000 possible total plaintiffs.

Somehow, that number quickly swelled to 16,000 wronged claimants.

And now, as of February, the government has announced it plans to hand out at least $50,000 each to over 70,000 more claimants, over and above the original 16,000.

That means that the U.S. may be recompensing at least 86,000 African-American farmers for past racial discrimination. But how could that possibly be true if there are only 39,697 African-American farmers in existence nationwide? And if only some subset of them ever applied for a loan and were then unfairly denied a loan?

Zombie notes that the Senate has repeatedly stripped funding for the settlement from its appropriations, something that also did not come up at all last week when Shirley Sherrod had the country's full attention. It's hard not to see the Sherrods' lawsuit for what it is: an attempt to obtain a kind of shadow reparations for past discrimination. The lawsuit might apply to events occurring between 1983-1997, but in the minds of the litigants it is undoubtedly a means of obtaining "justice" for slavery and segregation. A lot of the welfare state is built around this background goal.

I don't agree with the characterization of the Sherrod tape as showing "racism" in the NAACP. The dialog doesn't advance when conservatives can accuse liberals of being racist. It advances when conservatives can point to all the ways that liberalism is built upon racial and economic grievance. While liberals pull out their green eyeshades whenever the Pentagon wants to buy a $600 toilet seat, they turn a blind eye to the trillions in domestic spending that often goes unreported and unremarked. Shirley Sherrod's job at the USDA provided her with over a billion dollars worth of tax payer dollars to disburse at her discretion. The government is filled with people like her, exercising financial power far beyond their competence. That's the true story of Shirley Sherrod, and it's one that is slowly coming out.

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