July 22, 2010

Fired USDA worker gets apology from the top

She is offered a new job after the White House realizes the truth about her 'racist' remarks.

By MARY CLARE JALONICK and BEN EVANS The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

Tom Vilsack
click image to enlarge

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

Shirley Sherrod
click image to enlarge

Shirley Sherrod

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.

 

Were you interviewed for this story? If so, please fill out our accuracy form

Send question/comment to the editors




Further Discussion

Here at PressHerald.com we value our readers and are committed to growing our community by encouraging you to add to the discussion. To ensure conscientious dialogue we have implemented a strict no-bullying policy. To participate, you must follow our Terms of Use.

Questions about the article? Add them below and we’ll try to answer them or do a follow-up post as soon as we can. Technical problems? Email them to us with an exact description of the problem. Make sure to include:
  • Type of computer or mobile device your are using
  • Exact operating system and browser you are viewing the site on (TIP: You can easily determine your operating system here.)