July 22nd, 2010
My Dear America:
It has been a half a week from Hell for former United States Department of Agriculture Administrator, Shirley Sherrod.
Recently the NAACP in a very almost cordial way requested that the Tea Party Movement lighten up on the Racist Rhetoric and Racially charged Signs that some super extremists in the movement have been presenting. In what I seem to feel is at least a showing of good faith the National Tea Party Movement apparently did pass the word to their members to lighten up on the blatant racism and even expelled one of their groups whose leader put a racially charged post on his blog after the word went out.
Apparently in reaction to the mild chastising of the Tea Party Movement by the NAACP a Conservative Blogger named Andrew Breitbart put on his Blog a video that apparently showed United States Department of Agriculture Official Shirley Sherrod talking at an NAACP Dinner about how 20 years ago she was put off by a white farmer acting superior to her while requesting her help in saving his farm. Shirley commented in her speech that she did enough but not as much as she could have for the white farmer but did put the farmer in touch with one of his "own kind" for further help.
Clearly the video when initially viewed was disturbing in its blatant reverse racism of this black woman toward that white man seeking her help. Apparently officials in the Obama Administration and in the Agriculture Department without checking out the facts with Shirley Sherrod immediately asked for her resignation, which she gave them, without being allowed to explain how, when and why she gave her speech and what the extenuating circumstances were behind the video.
The Administration, The Agricuture Department and the NAACP all condemned the video and the person in the video, Shirley Sherrod.
Now a few days later, after she was essentially fired by USDA, circumstances have changed. Shirley Sherrod is no longer the victimizer she appeared to be in the video because the video was a short clip from a 45 minute speech in which she was trying to show how her racial views had changed since that time many years ago when she was working with a Non Profit organization helping rural farmers.
Now, after the spectre of the video being shown on Glen Beck's show is past and most people have heard the other side of the story the entire incident has turned into an embarassment for Barack Obama and USDA head, Tom Vilsack. Shirley Sherrod will probably be offered another position with USDA although she has indicated that she might not be willing to come back to an organization that was so quick to make rash judgements about who she is and what type of person she is.
Understandably enough, the news media jumped on this story and joined in on the initial condemnation. I have to admit that when I first saw the video clip I was also shocked and apalled at what appeared to be Shirley Sherrod's racism.
Now I can only respect her for the magnificent way Shirley Sherrod has conducted herself in what must have been a living nightmare for her. Andrew Breitbart has semi apologized stating that he wasn't after Sherrod but was merely trying to tarnish the reputation of the NAACP. The NAACP has also apologized to Sherrod for their quick condemnation without finding out the facts.
CNN has shown interviews with individuals in the audience for Shirley's speech that night and they all found the speech one that was condemning racism in any form and was especially encouraging to young people. CNN has also broadcast interviews with the white farmer that Shirley talked about in the video and his wife. The farmer and his wife state that Shirley Sherrod was responsible for helping them save their farm and since the time that Shirley talks about in the video they have been good friends with Shirley Sherrod.
Clearly the Obama Administration and USDA jumped the gun on this situation and I hope that they learn some valuable lessons from this incident. First of all, a video clip taken out of context can be manipulated in many ways, as this one was. Secondly, cooperating with the Republican Party should not be given up on entirely but it certainly should be put into perspective. Bipartisanship certainly has a place in our government but when bipartisanship is only one sided it is not bipartisanship, it is foolishmness. And please don't be guided by what is going to be showing up on Glen Beck's show, or any Fox news show. Investigate what is really happening before you just chop off a hand that has been giving to you for a long time.
On the positive side, Barack Obama and Tom Vilsack could have written off Shirley Sherrod, and weathered the storm of criticism from all sides that this entire situation has produced and not backed down from their mistakes. They have not done that. They have looked at the facts and from their statements seem to have learned from their mistakes and seem to be doing what they can to help restore Shirley Sherrod's reputation.
Barack Obama, I believe, owes Shirley Sherrod and her husband, a founder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinading Committee, at least a beer summit and quite possibly a dinner party with the Obamas and the Vilsacks.
I just hope that Shirley Sherrod's reputation is able to be restored and that she is able to go on with either USDA or elsewhere to continue to teach others the lessons of Tolerance and Respect.