Posts Tagged ‘Dept of Agriculture’

The Shameful Saga of Shirley Sherrod

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

A little more than a year ago, Shirley Sherrod addressed a meeting of a local NAACP branch and told a poignant personal story about how she successfully struggled to overcome her prejudices twenty four years ago and learned that the struggles that she had witnessed poor black farmers go through in rural Georgia were very similar to the struggles white farmers were facing. Her story was a beautiful modern day parable about overcoming pre-existing prejudices and dedicating oneself to the cause of assisting the poor regardless of race.

This past week, that speech was used as a political football in a cynical game that eventually cost Shirley Sherrod her job and once again ripped the scab off the race issue in America.

The backstory can be read here or watched here.

It is a story that is shameful on so many levels and in so many ways.

It is shameful that Andrew Breitbart posted the edited clip of a speech about an experience of racial reconciliation that occurred 24 years ago and twisted it into a claim that Sherrod was bragging about racial discrimination in her current job. It’s shameful that Fox News used its usual lack of journalistic integrity, not-so-subtly stoking white backlash with fears of pernicious “reverse discrimination” at the hands of the “liberal elite” in the Age of Obama.

By now, we’ve come to expect these kinds of things from the conservative media and it shouldn’t surprise us. What is surprising is the fact that the NAACP was so nervous about condoning “reverse discrimination” (after calling out the Tea Party for their racist elements) that they condemned Shirley Sherrod without apparently even watching the tape of the speech that occurred at their event.

But perhaps the most shameful part of this whole incident is the way that Tom Vilsack’s Department of Agriculture and–by extension–the Obama White House, so cavalierly threw this woman under the bus, demanding her resignation without doing a full investigation or even allowing her to defend herself. Sherrod reported that Cheryl Cook, an undersecretary in the Department of Agriculture, wouldn’t even allow her to return home, demanding that she pull over in her car and text her resignation to the department since she was “going to be on Glenn Beck tonight.”

Really? Glenn Beck?

They fired a woman for allegations of racism without looking into them because they wanted to preempt a pasty-faced huckster conspiracy theorist who regularly spouts paranoid fantasies about how Obama and his administration are part of a socialist plot to impose their “deep seated hatred of white people” on the country?

It’s not surprising that these nutjobs are trying to hijack our democracy with misinformation and lies. We knew that already. What is surprising is that the very people they are trying to throw out of office and discredit are playing right into their hands.

This incident would have been the perfect catalyst for a multiple point indictment of the right wing media, their pre-existing agenda and the lengths they will go to make facts fit their pre-existing narrative. It shows how they are so craven that they can take a great example of racial reconciliation and turn it into a Bizarro World accusation of racial discrimination. This would have been a perfect time for the Administration to dig in their heels and expose Fox News and Breitbart for what they are.

But they were so busy running away in fear that they surrendered without a fight.

They’re gonna need to be tougher than that if they want to turn those poll numbers around.