Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Shirley Sherrod Is Owed An Apology And A Job

NAACP leadership has been taken for a ride. In order to prove relevance in today's world, where people of all races and background stories are more equal than ever, the NAACP allowed itself to be played as useful idiots for the Obama administration. A once powerful and noble organization has fallen on its own sword.

In today's bitter political atmosphere, a lazy but effective tactic to end an argument is to lob the racist card at one's opponent. Don't agree with President Obama? You must be a racist. Don't like this administration's policies of government involved in absolutely every aspect of our lives? You must be a racist. What? You didn't even vote for President Obama in the first place? You must be a racist. And heaven help you if you identify yourself as a member of the Tea Party movement. You clearly must be a racist.

Someone in the West Wing of the White House has decided that the only way to keep the mid-term elections from being a complete blow-out for the GOP is to once again turn it into an opportunity to cast inaccurate and hateful accusations against those seeking to gain power. Out of nowhere last week, the NAACP discussed and then voted on a resolution declaring the Tea Party crowd as racist. The national media seized upon this action and ran with it in every news cycle as important and breaking news.

Why the NAACP and why now? This came after a civil rights division attorney from the Justice Department resigned and went public with his allegations that the department is under orders to not prosecute black defendants for actions against alleged white victims. The mainstream media has largely ignored this man's claims and, if it is mentioned, it is to paint the man as a conservative with an agenda. That is code for racist in today's world where liberals rule. Are you a conservative? You must be a racist.

It is nothing new for liberals to assert that conservatives are racist. It is standard procedure to call a conservative opponent a racist to stop an argument over political policy in any debate. This tactic has brought our national discourse to a low place indeed.

So, in order to change the conversation from scrutiny of the Obama administration's Justice Department and its policies, the decision was made to attack its most vocal and newly powerful opponent - the Tea Party movement in general. This charge of racism has been ongoing and predictable from the beginning but with the NAACP's insertion into the fray it was impossible for the media to resist the chance to cover it as a big story.

Enter a 62 year old USDA employee in Georgia. As conservatives and those in the Tea Party pushed back on the banal attack from the NAACP, the finger pointing was in full escalation. Each side of the political spectrum blaming the other as more racist. Shirley Sherrod was making a testimonial style speech to the NAACP back in March.

A video clip of Ms. Sherrod's speech to a NAACP event in March was splashed on the Internet by a conservative website. It went viral in no time. Conservatives were eager to point out what looked like a liberal's racism on full display. She told a story of having a white farmer come to her office for assistance. Her office was set up to primarily help black farmers with problems so she felt conflicted. She said she gave the man as little help as she could - that she didn't use the full resources available to her. Then she went on to tell her story of a change of heart on racial matters - her attitude and heart changed. This was a story of redemption. The full video told the story, not the clip used to destroy her career. And her name.

The white farmer and his wife have since came forth with the fact that Ms. Sherrod ended up helping them to save their farm.

Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, fired Ms. Sherrod. Not only did this cabinet member act swiftly - so swiftly that Ms. Sherrod received the cell phone call while driving, demanding she pull over to the side of the road and resign right then and there - but it would appear that he acted without bothering to look at the full tape and hear the entire speech. This is the same mistake those crying out against Ms. Sherrod made. Ms. Sherrod received "at least three phone calls from the Obama administration", as she said on a cable television show that night, demanding she resign immediately to avoid the story ending up on a FOX News cable show hosted by a conservative opponent of all things Obama. Sherrod claims an undersecretary from the agriculture department told her the White House wanted her to resign, though the White House denies any involvement.

According to this in the Washington Post today, Vilsack acted so quickly because he pledged to right the wrongs of past racial discrimination within agriculture as he came into the position. Now that the whole story is out and the administration, along with the NAACP, has egg on its face, Vilsack is backpeddling: Tom Vilsack, USDA and civil rights leaders have some explaining to do.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said early Wednesday morning that he's willing to reconsider his decision to force Shirley Sherrod's resignation.

"I am of course willing and will conduct a thorough review and consider additional facts to ensure to the American people we are providing services in a fair and equitable manner," Vilsack said in a statement that arrived in inboxes after 2 a.m.

But to understand why he sought Sherrod's resignation so quickly, let's go back to February 2009. That's when Vilsack publicly vowed to tackle USDA's troubled civil rights history by ensuring that employees fairly treated minority and women farmers.

"Some folks refer to USDA as the last plantation, and it has a pretty poor history of taking care of people of color," Vilsack said at the time. "You've got outright bias and discrimination."


The NAACP gave the media a statement denouncing Ms. Sherrod as the controversy brewed. This is odd, since she was on a video the NAACP had in its possession - it was from their event, remember. Why didn't they look at the tape? By trying to get out in front of the story and save face, they slimed themselves. Useful idiots, indeed.

NAACP President Ben Jealous jumped on the dump Sherrod bandwagon early on. From this article, he said,
late Monday he was “appalled” by the actions of U.S. Department of Agriculture official Shirley Sherrod, who resigned earlier in the day after video surfaced of her speaking at an NAACP event about discriminating against a white farmer seeking government help.

Jealous also promised to look into why members of the audience at an NAACP fundraiser in Georgia this past March reacted, as shown in the video, by nodding and in some cases laughing at Sherrod’s remarks. But Jealous distanced the national NAACP from the incident.
Also disturbing but mostly ignored is the fact that the audience members of Sherrod's speech laughed and nodded in agreement during the parts as she described her prejudice towards whites. Heal yourselves, NAACP members.

Then yesterday, as everyone became aware that the full story tells a different story of Ms. Sherrod, Jealous issued a statement that the organization was "snookered" by FOX News and the conservative blogosphere. He is too blinded by his own agenda to be embarrassed by such a small-minded statement. Does he really want to play victim as his organization's agenda is exposed? Why didn't he do due diligence and watch the whole tape before acting in the first place?

Ms. Sherrod is the victim of the worst edges of politics. Shame on Team Obama for conjuring the whole episode up. Barack Obama ran on a promise to be post-racial. We are waiting for him to step up and fulfill that pledge.

Ms. Sherrod is owed an apology from the White House and the NAACP. She is also owed her job back.

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