Wednesday, December 11, 2013
By MARY CLARE JALONICK and BEN EVANS The Associated Press
(Continued from page 1)
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack tells reporters that he acted in haste in firing Shirley Sherrod, a black U.S. Agriculture Department official, after it appeared she had made racist remarks in a heavily edited video posted on a conservative website. “I could have and should have done a better job,” he said.
The Associated Press
However, the Rev. Al Sharpton said black leaders should refrain from calling for an apology from the Obama administration, saying that creates the impression that black leadership is fractured. "We are only greasing the rails for the right wing to run a train through our ambitions and goals for having civil and human rights in this country," Sharpton said.
The episode comes as the NAACP and the conservative tea party group have been trading charges of racism.
The two-minute, 38-second clip posted Monday by BigGovernment.com was presented as evidence that the NAACP was hypocritical in its recent resolution condemning what it calls racist elements of the tea party. The website's owner, Andrew Breitbart, said the video shows the civil rights group condoning the same kind of racism it says it wants to erase.In the clip posted on BigGovernment.com, Sherrod described the first time a white farmer came to her for help. It was 1986, and she worked for a nonprofit rural farm aid group. She said the farmer came in acting "superior" to her and she debated how much help to give him.
"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," Sherrod said.
Initially, she said, "I didn't give him the full force of what I could do" and only gave him enough help to keep his case progressing. Eventually, she said, his situation "opened my eyes" that whites were struggling just like blacks, and helping farmers wasn't so much about race but was "about the poor versus those who have."
People who knew Sherrod were quick to defend her, including the wife of the white farmer whom she discussed in the speech. "We probably wouldn't have (our farm) today if it hadn't been for her leading us in the right direction," said Eloise Spooner of Iron City, Ga.
In the full 43-minute video, Sherrod tells the story of her father's death in 1965, saying he was killed by white men who were never charged. She says she made a commitment to stay in the South the night of her father's death.
"When I made that commitment I was making that commitment to black people and to black people only," she said. "But you know God will show you things and he'll put things in your path so that you realize that the struggle is really about poor people."
Sherrod said she was on the road Monday when USDA Deputy Undersecretary Cheryl Cook called her and told her to pull over and submit her resignation on her Blackberry because the White House wanted her out.
"It hurts me that they didn't even try to attempt to see what is happening here, they didn't care," Sherrod said.