July 20, 2010
NAACP Plans To Investigate Its Own
Organization Agrees With Sherrod Resignation, Will Investigate 'Disturbing' Reactions Of Audience, NAACP Officials
By MARK RODRIGUEZ, WCBSTV.com Producer
Last Tuesday, the NAACP passed a resolution condemning racism in the Tea Party movement. The organization's delegates called on Tea Party leaders to "repudiate those in their ranks who use racist language in their signs and speeches."
Tea Party members and supporters saw the resolution as a condemnation of the group itself, which calls for fiscal responsibility, restrictions on governmental power, and backs political candidates who claim the same.
The NAACP's action caught the attention of Andrew Breitbart of BigGovernment.com, who said the controversy was "absolutely manufactured for political gain," in a summer "in which the economy is the number one issue affecting blacks and whites in this country. This country can ill afford the schism of race to be exploited the way [he is] based upon the false premise of the Tea Party being racist."
He also claimed to possess recorded evidence of racism from the NAACP.
On Monday, Breitbart posted a video of a speech by Shirley Sherrod, USDA Rural Development Georgia State Director, delivered at the NAACP's 20th Annual Freedom Fund Banquet. The video shows Sherrod speaking of racial considerations being a factor for how much help she would give.
Sherrod tendered her resignation Monday.
"The first time I was faced with having to help a white farmer save his farm, he took a long time talking but he was trying to show me he was superior to me. I know what he was doing, but he had come to me for help. What he didn't know while he was taking all that time trying to show me he was superior to me was, I was trying to decide just how much help I was going to give him," Sherrod said.
"I was struggling with the fact that so many black people had lost their farmland, and here 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. I did enough," Sherrod said. "So that when he, I assumed the Department of Agriculture had sent him to me, either that or the Georgia Department of Agriculture, and he needed to go back and report that I did try to help him."
In the video, Sherrod also spoke of referring the white farmer to a white lawyer, thinking the latter would be more sympathetic because of race. "So I took him to a white lawyer that had attended some of training that we had provided because Chapter 12 bankruptcy had just been enacted for the family farm. So I figured if I take him to one of them, that his own kind would take care of him."
NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous issued the following statement Monday:
"Since our founding in 1909, the NAACP has been a multi-racial, multi-faith organization that-- while generally rooted in African American communities-- fights to end racial discrimination against all Americans.
We concur with US Agriculture Secretary Vilsack in accepting the resignation of Shirley Sherrod for her remarks at a local NAACP Freedom Fund banquet.
Racism is about the abuse of power. Sherrod had it in her position at USDA. According to her remarks, she mistreated a white farmer in need of assistance because of his race.
We are appalled by her actions, just as we are with abuses of power against farmers of color and female farmers.
Her actions were shameful. While she went on to explain in the story that she ultimately realized her mistake, as well as the common predicament of working people of all races, she gave no indication she had attempted to right the wrong she had done to this man.
The reaction from many in the audience is disturbing. We will be looking into the behavior of NAACP representatives at this local event and take any appropriate action.
We thank those who brought this to our national office's attention, as there are hundreds of local fundraising dinners each year.
Sherrod's behavior is even more intolerable in light of the US Department of Agriculture's well documented history of denying opportunities to African American, Latino, Asian American, and Native American farmers, as well as female farmers of all races. Currently, justice for many of these farmers is being held up by Congress. We would hope all who share our outrage at Sherrod's statements would join us in pushing for these cases to be remedied.
#Since NAACP had the whole tape, why would they release this article condemning Sherrod's speech, supporting the resignation?
Now, they have turned 180 degrees and posted a new statement on her resignation:
July 20, 2010
[no time listed]
(BALTIMORE, MD) - NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous issued the following statement today after a careful investigation into the presentation of former USDA Official Shirley Sherrod.
"The NAACP has a zero tolerance policy against racial discrimination, whether practiced by blacks, whites, or any other group.
The NAACP also has long championed and embraced transformation by people who have moved beyond racial bias. Most notably, we have done so for late Alabama Governor George Wallace and late US Senator Robert Byrd -- each a man who had associated with and supported white supremacists and their cause before embracing civil rights for all.
With regard to the initial media coverage of the resignation of USDA Official Shirley Sherrod, we have come to the conclusion we were snookered by Fox News and Tea Party Activist Andrew Breitbart into believing she had harmed white farmers because of racial bias [they had had the whole tape since March, 2010!].
Having reviewed the full tape, spoken to Ms. Sherrod, and most importantly heard the testimony of the white farmers mentioned in this story, we now believe the organization that edited the documents did so with the intention of deceiving millions of Americans. I apologized to Ms. Sherrod, clearly a commited and selfless public servant, who had been unfairly maligned.
The fact is Ms. Sherrod did help the white farmers mentioned in her speech. They personally credit her with helping to save their family farm.
Moreover, this incident and the lesson it prompted occurred more that 20 years before she went to work for USDA.
Finally, she was sharing this account as part of a story of transformation and redemption. In the full video, Ms.Sherrod says she realized that the dislocation of farmers is about “haves and have nots.” "It’s not just about black people, it’s about poor people," says Sherrod in the speech. “We have to get to the point where race exists but it doesn’t matter.”
This is a teachable moment, for activists and for journalists.
Most Americans agree that racism has no place in American Society. We also believe that civil and human rights have to be measured by a single yardstick.
The NAACP has demonstrated its commitment to live by that standard.
The Tea Party Federation took a step in that direction when it expelled the Tea Party Express over the weekend. Unfortunately, we have yet to hear from other leaders in the Tea Party movement like Dick Armey and Sarah Palin, who have been virtually silent on the “internal bigotry” issue.
Next time we are confronted by a racial controversy broken by Fox News or their allies in the Tea Party like Mr. Breitbart, we will consider the source and be more deliberate in responding. The tape of Ms. Sherrod’s speech at an NAACP banquet was deliberately edited to create a false impression of racial bias, and to create a controversy where none existed [check out the tape below]. This just shows the lengths to which extremist elements will go to discredit legitimate opposition.
According to the USDA, Sherrod’s statements prompted her dismissal. While we understand why Secretary Vilsack believes this false controversy will impede her ability to function in the role, we urge him to reconsider.
Finally, we hope this incident will heighten Congress’s urgency in dealing with the well documented findings of discrimination toward black, Latino, Asian American and Native American farmers, as well as female farmers of all races."
Video: Watch the Shirley Sherrod Speech in Full
The video of Shirley Sherrod released by Andrew Brietbart's Big Government Blog on July 19 didn't tell the full story. It was selectively edited to cast her in a negative light. Here is the video, shot by the local NAACP unit that hosted Ms. Sherrod. Watch the video, and judge for yourself.
[If you don't want to see the whole video, look at remarks she made at 22:00 and forward, 24:00 and forward, and 35:00].
The two times indicated above are referenced in this July 22, 2010 article.
More quotes from Shirley Sherrod’s famous NAACP speech which you can watch in full here and make your own judgment. Do you want Shirley Sherrod in charge of the USDA outreach position that would deal with discrimination matters?
The people with money, the elites decided, hey, we need to do something here to divide them [the white and black servants] so that’s where they made black people servants for life. That’s when they put laws in place forbidding them to marry each other. That’s when they created the racism that we know of today.
They did it to keep us divided. And here we are over 400 years later and it is still working.
What we need to do is get that out of our heads. There is no difference between us.
The only difference is that the folks with money wanna stay in power and whether it is health care or something else they would do whatever they need to do to keep that power. It is always about money, Yo’al…
Somehow we got to make the other side of town to work with us. We’ve got to make our communities what they need to be and our young people, I am not picking on you, but you all got to step up to the plate. You are capable of being very, very smart people. You are capable of being all those doctors and lawyers. You are capable of running your own business.
This is one of the things in the position I am in, one of the things that really hurts; one of the programs that we have with the most money in it is for business and industry. And I am sitting up there and I am signing all forms… 6 million, 3 million, 2 million but who is it going to? Not one so far. We are approaching 80 million dollars since October 1, but not 1 dime to a black business.
People from the other side of town?
The Obama 2008 Speech on Race gives us explanation to Shirley Sherrod’s remarks:
This is the reality in which Reverend Wright and other African-Americans of his generation grew up. They came of age in the late fifties and early sixties, a time when segregation was still the law of the land and opportunity was systematically constricted. What’s remarkable is not how many failed in the face of discrimination, but rather how many men and women overcame the odds; how many were able to make a way out of no way for those like me who would come after them.
But for all those who scratched and clawed their way to get a piece of the American Dream, there were many who didn’t make it – those who were ultimately defeated, in one way or another, by discrimination.
That legacy of defeat was passed on to future generations – those young men and increasingly young women who we see standing on street corners or languishing in our prisons, without hope or prospects for the future. Even for those blacks who did make it, questions of race, and racism, continue to define their worldview in fundamental ways. For the men and women of Reverend Wright’s generation, the memories of humiliation and doubt and fear have not gone away; nor has the anger and the bitterness of those years. That anger may not get expressed in public, in front of white co-workers or white friends. But it does find voice in the barbershop or around the kitchen table. At times, that anger is exploited by politicians, to gin up votes along racial lines, or to make up for a politician’s own failings….
… But what we know — what we have seen – is that America can change. That is true genius of this nation. What we have already achieved gives us hope – the audacity to hope – for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.
So the Department of Agriculture will hire the past – Shirley Sherrod – a woman deeply wounded from the darkest past of racism (her father was killed by a white man and the justice was never served for her and her dad) for outreach on discrimination matters.
The bright side is Shirley Sherrod believes in change. Unfortunately it is a kind of change that is about taking from one and giving to another as the government sees fit.
The most revealing information about Shirley Sherrod is on the next post, "40 Acres and a Mule - Sherrod Style?"
This may tie all of your questions together about this incident.