So the American Spectator has a piece up claiming that Shirley Sherrod of the USDA — the Shirley Sherrod who recently lost her job after Andrew Breitbart disseminated distorted clips from a speech she’d given to the NAACP — lied in that speech when she said her relative Bobby Hall was lynched in Baker County, Georgia back in the early 1940s.

Now, the Spectator is wrong about this, as has been noted. They’re wrong because they’re under the impression that lynching requires a rope, and that because Bobby Hall was beaten to death rather than hanged, “lynching” isn’t what happened to him.

Never mind that he was beaten to death while in police custody.

Never mind that he was a black man beaten to death by a white sheriff — Claude Screws — and his two white deputies.

In his hometown’s courthouse square.

While handcuffed.

According to the Spectator this extrajudicial murder, carried out in a public square by three law enforcement officers, was no lynching because there was no rope.

Andrew Serwer has the goods on this, including the text of the law that the folks at the Spectator cite in their argument, a law which they obviously didn’t bother to read, a law which utterly eviscerates their position.

But I just wanted to mention it myself, because as a white man I think it’s important for us white people to educate ourselves about this country’s past. Not out of a sense of guilt, but out of a sense of obligation. If we’re going to construct an identity for ourselves as white people that isn’t stained with the sins of our forefathers, we need to not just repudiate those sins but understand them. We need to align ourselves with the Leonidas C. Dyers of our history rather than the Sheriff Claude Screwses, and we need to do it in a concrete and substantive way.

We need to show our friends and colleagues of color, and our own children, and ourselves, the respect of learning the history of race in this country.

The Spectator embarrassed itself today. It embarrassed itself by seeking to use the history of lynching to score cheap political points against an honorable woman.

But more than that it embarrassed itself by proudly trumpeting its ignorance of a subject of which no decent American has the right to remain ignorant.

Update | The Spectator piece was written by one Jeffrey Lord, a former Reagan administration official, and it would be remiss of me not to point out that two of his colleagues have already disowned it. John Tabin calls Lord’s assertions “untrue” and “utterly bizarre,” while Philip Klein says he’s “rendered speechless” by the article’s wrongness.

Late Update | A third Spectator writer has disavowed Lord’s piece. Quin Hillyer says the article is “off base,” adding, “I just don’t get Jeff’s point, sorry to say.”

Still no correction on the article itself.

Tuesday Morning Update | Lord has posted to the Spectator’s blog to defend his piece. His defense is flat wrong, and I’ve told him why there. (My comment is the one by Angus Johnston, the second one in the thread as I post this.)

I have to sneak out for a media thing right now, but I’ll have more on this story later today.


Final Update | My last, long word on this subject.