When I first heard about former USDA official Shirley Sherrod’s comments at a March NAACP banquet in Georgia, I was appalled and disgusted.
There she was, proudly explaining how 24 years ago when she worked for the Georgia field office for the Federation of Southern Cooperative/Land Assistance Fund she purposely didn’t help a white farmer save his farm. How could she stand there and be so insensitive as she recalled this man’s plight when so many black farmers have been seeking justice from the USDA over past discrimination.
Here it was, less than a week after the NAACP condemned elements of the Tea Party for being racist and now I see video of someone speaking at an NAACP event doing just what the organization is rallying against. How can it be?
Video of the speech appeared on Andrew Breitbart’s Big Government blog. And it is damning. So much so, that the NAACP initially released – and then rescinded — a statement supporting Sherrod’s resignation from the USDA. (Thanks to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for keeping the statement on its site.)
“Racism is about the abuse of power. Sherrod had it in her position at USDA. According to her remarks, she mistreated a white farmer in need of assistance because of his race. We are appalled by her actions, just as we are with abuses of power against farmers of color and female farmers. Her actions were shameful.” wrote the NAACP, according to the AJC.
Ooh, I was getting hot under my vintage collar. But then I did a bit of research and my questions were answered and my outraged tamped down. I learned that Sherrod says more than what’s in the clip released by the blog.
In an interview with the Associated Press Tuesday, Sherrod said the video clip is taken out of context and misconstrues the message of the story, which is that the case taught her that whites are struggling just like blacks.
“My point in telling that story is that working with him helped me to see that it wasn’t just a black and white issue,” she told the AP. “That’s why I take the time to tell that story is to tell people we need to get beyond it and work together.” She added: the farmers’ situation ultimately “opened my eyes” that helping farmers wasn’t so much about race but was “about the poor versus those who have.”
Meanwhile, the wife of the white farmer in the story says she plans to stand up for her friend, and help her just as Sherrod helped her and her late husband.
‘How Can It Be?’ I asked earlier. Well in this highly polemic society, people/groups will too often resort to any means necessary to try to prove their point. Once the NAACP called out the Tea Partiers for their some of their racist ways, it was open season on the group. While the NAACP was able to cite credible evidence to support its argument that there are racist elements in the Tea Party movement, biggovernment.com used specious and underhanded tactics – anyone remember ACORN? — to accuse the NAACP of supporting racism.
Deborah Creighton Skinner is the editorial director at BlackEnterprise.com.