Vilsack Backing Down?


    Agriculture Sec. Tom Vilsack said today that he is “reconsidering” his department’s decision to fire Shirley Sherrod from her USDA job because of a highly edited speech she made recently to a chapter of the NAACP. The edit seemed to portray her as some sort of “reverse racist” Ironically, her speech was one of her redemption from hatred caused by a tragic murder in her family done by racist whites.

    In his statement Vilsack said that he will “conduct a thorough review and consider additional facts” about his decision to ask Sherrod to resign. Apparently, the pressure put upon him by people all over the country and the full release of the speech by the NAACP has changed his mind.  (The national NAACP, by the way, was the first to jump to a wrong conclusion and throw Sherrod “under the bus.”) Also, Kyra Phillips of CNN has helped get out Shirley Sherrod’s true story.  

    The white couple she helped many years ago have also defended Sherrod. She “kept us out of bankruptcy,” said Eloise Spooner, in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, adding she considers Sherrod a “friend for life.” She and her husband, Roger Spooner, approached Sherrod for help in 1986 when Sherrod worked for a nonprofit that assisted farmers, not for the USDA.

    Here’s the full story of the motivation behind Sherrod’s speech.

    Shirley Sherrod’s father, who was known by the white community in Baker County, Georgia, to be an activist seeking to end racial discrimination during the civil rights movement, was killed by white racists when she was young. He was murdered just before her high school graduation and before the birth of his sixth child and his only son.

    Sherrod, who had been planning to go north to attend college, had all her future plans thrown into disarray. At the time, she rightly blamed whites for the death of the father she loved, but her speech wasn’t about that. Rather, it was a story about her redemption from those feelings toward whites after that horrible crime against her family.

    Her speech was not a racist one, just the opposite. It was a story of racial healing, of one person who seemingly had justification for racial hatred yielding instead to love, learning to judge others “by the content of their character, not by the color of their skin.”

    The wrongful accusation of Shirley Sherrod is a powerful example yet again – in a time when the hidden poison of racial prejudice has once more been stirred up by those on the far right who hope to benefit politically – that racial reconciliation must never end in this country.

    • KathyinBlacksburg

      owes, not just Sherrod, but also us all a huge apology on behalf of his agency.  It relied on an unreliable extremely partisan source already known to fabricate, as well as the untrustworthy FAUX News.  If it, USDA –or the admin–is going to let those liars do the fact-checking, then we might as well pack it in.  A shameful knee-jerk reaction all around.

      Most American will probably only know the allegations and not the corrected story.  And that is what these propagandists are all about: Take down the perceived opponent (in this case the NAAACP and its supporters); no lie is too extreme for them to use.

    • Elaine in Roanoke

      In her speech, Sherrod noted that, despite three witnesses to her father’s murder, the perpetrator was not charged with a crime. That wasn’t the first crime her family had suffered at the hands of racist whites. A cousin, Bobby Hall, had been lynched in Georgia in 1943. In that case, the Roosevelt Justice Department used civil rights statutes passed by Congress in 1868 to prosecute the county sheriff for violating Hall’s civil rights. He was convicted, but the conviction was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in Screws v U.S.

      Here’s the heart of Sherrod’s speech: “God helped me to see that it’s not just about black people. It’s about poor people. I’ve come a long way…I’ve come to realize that we have to work together and…have to overcome the divisions that we have. We have to get to the point, as Tony Morrison said, race exists but it doesn’t matter…That division is still here, but our communities are not going to thrive – you know, our children won’t have the communities that they need to be able to stay in and live in and have a good life – if we can’t figure this out. White people, black people, Hispanic people, we all have to do our part to make our communities a safe place, a healthy place, a good environment.”