The Curious Case of Shirley Sherrod

July 21, 2010  |  

by Charing Ball

A USDA worker became the first innocent causality in the verbal race war being played out in the media between conservative entities and the NAACP.

The mainstream media was buzzing about a Shirley Sherrod, former agriculture director of rural development in Georgia and virtual unknown, who was forced to resign after a video surfaced on conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart’s Big Government website (and replayed over and over again on Fox News) of Sherrod supposedly expressing racist intent and remarks before an NAACP banquet.  Sherrod, who was condemned by the NAACP, was taped speaking about an encounter she had with a white farmer 28 years ago, who she said appeared to have superiority issues and yet was asking her for assistance.

Not long after Sherrod was removed from office, the wife of the white farmer, who supposedly was discriminated against by Sherrod, came forward and defended her, saying that Sherrod had worked tirelessly to help the couple save the farm. It was also “discovered” that the tape had been edited (gasp again) to produce a false biasness on Sherrod’s part. And surprise, surprise, the NAACP, which originally supported Sherrod ousting, is claiming to have been “snookered” and is now petitioning the administration to reinstate Sherrod. The only question I have for Breitbart, the USDA and the NAACP is: do you like some ham to go with all that egg on your face?

What started off as an obvious (and the key word is obvious) made-up controversy to smear the NAACP, now has some legs thanks to the knee-jerk reaction by the USDA, the NAACP and quite possibly the Obama Administration, who signed off and supported the calls for Sherrod’s resignation. If all parties involved in this fiasco would have spoken with Sherrod, considered the source or at the very least, paid attention to the video in its entirely; they would have seen that Sherrod was recounting what was ultimately a learning experience for her.

Here was a woman, whose father was murdered by the KKK and some odd years later finds herself fighting to help a white farmer, with possible racial issues of his own, save his property. Through this experience, Sherrod learned that that the struggle for fairness and equality wasn’t so much about black vs. white, but rather the haves and the have-nots. In other words, Sherrod had discovered that when she stopped only being a member of a race and embraced her role as a human being, she began to realize that the fight was for ALL people that needed it. Because when you’re poor, regardless of the color, nobody wants to help you.

And yet, Breitbart and Fox News ( in its effort to deflect charges by the NAACP of racism in the Tea Party), the NAACP, ( in its haste to counter-act charges of racism in its own midst) and the USDA and the Obama Administration ( in their haste to distance themselves from anything remotely controversial even if the controversy was made-up to begin with), reacted in such a way that not only used Sherrod as a scapegoat, but proved that the fight to maintain a political edge has little regard for the plight of the little guys. Oh, how I love the irony.

Breitbart is a despicable example of what a journalist is suppose to be. And we all know that every time Fox News makes the claim that they are fair and balanced, a small puppy dies. As contemptuous and dishonest as Breitbart and Fox News are, I come to take whatever they say with a grain of salt. I also expected that other news outlets, which didn’t hesitate for a second to jump on this story and beat us over the head with it for half-a-day, to actually investigate and research a story before engaging in both character and career assassination – especially when the source is Breitbart.

I also believe that the USDA and the Obama Administration not only owes Sherrod an apology but they owe Sherrod her job back – with a pay-raise for her troubles. Finally, we are all owed an apology from the NAACP and the conservative entities for the endless hours of distractions in the form of who is racist and who is not racist. Acorn, Van Jones and now Sherrod: how many more people doing the actual work for fairness and equality for us everyday folks will be caught in the cross hairs of this political wrangling, race-baiting and ego tripping?

It should be noted that Sherrod’s encounter with the white farmer occurred, not when she was an employee of the federal government, but rather when she worked for The Federation of Southern Cooperatives Land Fund, which is a non-profit organization founded for the purpose of assisting farmers in land retention and development issues, particularly African-American farmers. This part of the story had been conveniently edited out of Breidhart and Fox News.

Most ironic is that the Federation has also been a vocal voice in the fight with the US Department of Agriculture to finally pay out the $1.2 billion in reparations owed to plaintiffs in a class actions suit, which alleged discrimination practices in USDA lending to black farmers. Over 3700 black farmers are still waiting for compensation while legislation has yet to be passed through Congress.

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