I was going to write something about the Shirley Sherrod situation last night, but I never got to it, and now it seems like old news. I did, however, want to open up new post, in case people had comments that they wanted to express… For those of you who might be unfamiliar with the situation, Shirley Sherrod was, until recently, an official within the Department of Agriculture. That, however, changed yesterday when the Obama administration, acting through Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, forced her to resign, in the wake of a shitstorm stirred by Tea Party provocateur Andrew Breitbart. According to Breitbart, Sherrod, who is black, had confessed, when speaking at an NAACP forum, that, in her capacity as Director of Rural Development in the state of Georgia, she chose to not aggressively assist white farmers. And Breitbart had the video evidence to prove it. In this video, Sherrod said the following.
“The first time I was faced with having to help a white farmer save his farm, he took a long time… but he was trying to show me he was superior to me. I know what he was doing. But he had come to me for help. What he didn’t know is that while he was taking all that time trying to show me that he was superior to me, I was trying to decide just how much help I was going to give him. I was struggling with the fact that so many black people had lost their farm land. And here I was faced with having to help a white person save their land, so I didn’t give him the full force of what I could do. I did enough…”
Sherrod said that she would be vindicated when the unedited version was brought to light, but it seems as though the Obama administration didn’t want to give her the benefit of the doubt. They forced her out in hopes of avoiding further discussion of this narrative being pushed by Breitbart – that it’s payback time now that Obama is in the White House, and the blacks are coming for your money and property.
Sherrod, as it would turn out, was right. She hadn’t done any such thing as an official at the Department of Agriculture. The story that she was sharing was from much earlier in her career, 24 years ago, when she was working for a non-profit. And, she ended up becoming friends with the white farmer in the story. Furthermore, she had helped the man to save his family farm, despite her earlier reservations. None of this, however, had been included in the edited version of the speech shown by Fox News and others. The White House apologized and Vilsack offered Sherrod her job back, but the damage had been done. Sherrod is quoted as having said, “It hurts me that they didn’t even try to attempt to see what is happening here, they didn’t care.”
A great deal of blame belongs with Breitbart, who, at the very least, should be sued for libel. (If you would like to file a complaint with the FCC, you can do so here.) But, Obama also bears some responsibility for not standing up to the right wing propaganda machine. As he did in the case of ACORN, where Breitbart also selectively edited video footage in order to stir up the anger of the frothing right, Obama chose to concede the fight without so much as throwing a single punch. And it’s beginning to piss people off… I’d love to write more, but Eugene Robinson has done a better job than I could ever hope to… Here’s a clip:
…The Sherrod case has fully exposed the right-wing campaign to use racial fear to destroy Obama’s presidency, and I hope the effect is to finally stiffen some spines in the administration. The way to deal with bullies is to confront them, not run away. Yet Sherrod was fired before even being allowed to tell her side of the story. She said the official who carried out the execution explained that she had to resign immediately because the story was going to be on Glenn Beck’s show that evening. Ironically, Beck was the only Fox host who, upon hearing the rest of Sherrod’s speech, promptly called for her to be reinstated. On Wednesday, Vilsack offered to rehire her.
Shirley Sherrod stuck to her principles and stood her ground. I hope the White House learns a lesson.