Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Why Shirley Sherrod's Resignation Should Stand

You probably know by now that Shirley Sherrod is the Department of Agriculture official who resigned last night as a result of remarks she made while being honored by the NAACP in Georgia last March.

The offending snippet was brought to light by Andrew Breitbart. The video is introduced with this passage:

On March 27, 2010 while speaking at the NAACP Freedom Banquet Ms. Sherrod admits in her federally appointed position, overseeing a billion dollars she discriminates against people due to their race.
In the video, Sherrod spoke about her feelings concerning assistance to a white farmer. "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," said Sherrod.

But things aren't what they seem. First, the incident Sherrod describes took place before she joined the Department of Agriculture. Second, she did give the farmer the full force of what she could do after the lawyer to whom she referred this white farmer was less than diligent in his efforts. Third, in an interview with CNN, Roger Spooner (the family farmer in question) confirms her efforts to help them and describes Sherrod as "a friend."

So has Shirley Sherrod been wronged by Andrew Breitbart?

Yes. Whatever racial bias Sherrod might have had towards Spooner were overcome and that was the point of her story. Breitbart wronged her by taking this anecdote out of context.

Nonetheless Sherrod's resignation should still stand.

The NAACP, to its credit, has released the video of Sherrod's speech in its entirety. However, it proves to be her undoing. At the 24 minute mark, Sherrod says something particularly egregious:

I haven't seen such a mean spirited people as I've seen lately over this issue of health care. Some of the racism we thought was buried. Didn't it surface? Now we endured eight years of the Bushes and we didn't do the stuff those Republicans are doing because you have a black President.

Well, I seem to recall former NAACP President Julian Bond likened President Bush's judicial nominees to the Taliban while comparing the Republican Party to the Nazis. But let's put that aside for now.

Sherrod is obviously referring to Congressmen John Lewis and Andre Carson's unsubstantiated allegations of racism by Tea Party activists in Washington D.C. the weekend of the final health care vote. She is stating something as fact which has not been verified as such. Sherrod ought not use her position as a federal public servant to casually accuse people of racism simply because their point of view is different from her own. If she had not already resigned such a statement would warrant her resignation.

Sherrod might have resigned for the wrong reason but we cannot have federal public servants falsely accusing others of acts of racism. Thus the Department of Agriculture should not rehire her.

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