I've set up a multi-author social blog to be used by my part-time blogger friends who don't want one of their own. Send me a note if you'd like to be able to write on For Consideration

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Sacking of Shirley Sherrod

I've wanted to write something about this incident but working 8 straight evenings since last Tuesday and my daughter's wedding coming tomorrow, I haven't had the time to research and write a decent piece.  Let me say I share the thoughts of my friend, DCHomer whose post I'm putting here.

DCHomer:  "These are NOT my words. They are the blog comments of my fraternity brother, Attorney Chuck Hobbs of Florida."

The Sacking of Shirley Sherrod---President Obama should Reinstate Her Immediately

Posted 7/21/2010 12:44 PM EDT on

Reject! Repudiate! Condemn!

In today's 24 hour political news cycle it seems as if not a day passes without some politician, lobbyist or talking head making a statement that so vexes his or her ideological opponents that summary calls for rejection, repudiation or condemnation soon hail forth.
The latest example is Shirley Sherrod, a heretofore relatively obscure black employee of the United States Department of Agriculture who in March addressed a NAACP gathering and discussed her own peregrination toward racial enlightenment. The blog Big Government recently decided to cut and post only
part of her statement where she describes, back in 1986, how she nearly used her authority at the USDA in a wrongful and racially tinged manner.
In her speech, Sherrod describes how she felt that a white farmer “came in acting superior to her” and that “she debated how much help to give him.”  Sherrod also stated that "I was struggling with the fact that so many black people had lost their farmland, and here I was faced with helping a white person save their land."
Standing alone, such comments certainly reveal racial bias by a government official charged to assist farmers regardless of color.
The problem, however, is that there was a second part of her statement that certain individuals, for reasons known only to themselves, conveniently chose to leave out.
Sherrod went on to state that the situation “opened (her) eyes…that whites were struggling just like blacks, and helping farmers wasn’t so much about race but about the poor versus those who have.”  Instead of Sherrod being hailed as a shining example of how one can overcome their own latent biases to treat people fairly, she was fired this week by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack who, like the NAACP, rushed to condemn the partial statement without having the gumption to ascertain whether there was more to the story---which clearly there was.

Almost as quickly as the comments went viral on the Internet, the seemingly never ending game of "Who is the Most Racist" was begun again pitting the right vs. the left.  Vilsack sacked Sherrod without as much as a meeting to discuss the particulars.
Sherrod has since intimated that she was under pressure from the White House to resign, further cementing my fear that an administration filled with lawyers---individuals trained in the art of discerning fact or fiction,
continues to act first and ask questions later.
Sherrod’s most biting comment to date is that the White House seems skittish on race---she will get no argument from me on that point. But my biggest concern is that adult professionals, including Vilsack and whoever else encouraged his swift action, have less patience than my year old daughter---a problem when
considering that these are the ones that we elected to, among other things, set the national tone on issues of common importance like race.
Still, as news consumers, we must remain wary of those who cut and splice comments for purely political purposes.
Perhaps the greatest disappointment of the Cyber Fourth Estate is that "fact checking" is often ignored in favor of bloggers hoping to become the first to leak a story or ignite a firestorm.
Nevertheless, concerning Sherrod, of equal importance is how we have become so sensitive to “real talk” that someone simply expressing how they truly felt---twenty years ago---is a basis for being fired. To quote President Obama, Secretary Vilsack acted “stupidly” and I will add, ignorantly based upon his lack of knowing the true facts.
Even Roger Spooner, the white farmer that she ultimately helped, thanked Sherrod profusely for saving his family farm nearly 25 years ago.  Which begs the question: when defining racism which is more important, what we think or how we act?
Sherrod’s story proves that negative thoughts can and often do enter our minds, but in the end analysis if we do what is right and learn from that never ending game of mental joust that separates saints from sinners, than our world becomes a much better place.
And if, by chance, we were to be completely honest with ourselves, almost every adult, at some point in their lives, will have to confront their own preconceived biases or notions about folks of another hue. Those who beg to differ either are Pollyannaish or rank prevaricators.
Simply stated, if we cannot honestly share our thoughts on these issues candidly, we will never move past the status quo regarding race.
At some point, we must all realize that the knee-jerk reaction of rejecting, repudiating and condemning any and all race-based comments simply leads to suppressed thoughts. We must also use caution when evaluating the veracity of comments from hyper partisan bloggers whose agenda is to divide---not unite.


Zebster said...

I'm very disappointed in how this was handled and overall I agree that in cases of racial comments we're losing the perspective of innocent until proven guilty.
Everything has context.

R.J. said...

Great post. I've been watching this since late last night and I'm disgusted with the Obama Administration. The Mel Gibson tapes faced tougher scrutinization than the Sherrod tape.

That blogger in question is Andrew Breitbart, the same blogger who not only offered $100k to anyone who could produce video that Rep. John Lewis was greeted with racial slurs from Tea Party protesters on the Capital steps but failed to pay out the money when the proof came to light.

I hope he gets sued and/or is in federal trouble for this.