Thursday, November 11, 2010


Does the name ring a bell? Shirley Sherrod had a remarkable 15 minutes of fame.

Back in July, Sherrod was forced to resign from her job as Georgia State Director of Rural Development, after blogger Andrew Breitbart posted on his Website, video excerpts of an address Shirley Sherrod made at an NAACP event.

The Breitbart video made Sherrod, an employee of the US. Department of Agriculture, sound as if she were a bigoted black seeking revenge on whites for their racism.

The NAACP and U.S. government officials immediately condemned her remarks and accepted her letter of resignation.

News alerts, headlines -- a big to-do it was! Then, the un-edited, original video was seen, and what Sherrod actually said at the NAACP event was heard.

On the original, unedited tape, we heard an educated, articulate woman explain why and how she'd helped a poor white couple -- they were losing their farm -- a bank was foreclosing on it. Though it wasn't part of Sherrod's job, she went out of her way to get a lawyer to file a Chapter 11 bankruptcy claim for them, and prevented the elderly couple from ending up homeless.
Sherrod explained that when she was a child, her father had been murdered by a white man who was acquitted by a white jury -- that she could have sent the white farmer and his wife on their way without helping them. She said, very simply, "I didn't discriminate. In the end we became very good friends."

The story of a black woman who had every reason to hate whites, who bent over backwards not to discriminate against them, was touching.

President Obama apologized. The head of the Department of Agriculture. Tim Vilsak, apologized. The NAACP apologized. There were screaming headlines. Sherrod shouldn't have been fired! Obama made a mistake! Vilsak should be fired! Breitbart should be fired! Sherrod was suing Fox News and Breitbart. Vilsak offered Sherrod an important new job! Obama offered her a job! Over and over, the nation got alerts and replays of the Shirley Sherrod story.

The story became old news. Politics and other scandals were exploding. Having read somewhere that she turned down the new job, I figured she was working with lawyers, suing Breitbart.

Last week, when reporter Juan Williams, a Black, was fired, or almost fired, or about to be fired, because of the knee-jerk reaction of NPR regarding his comment about being afraid on a plane when he sees people dressed in Muslim-style clothing, the media grabbed his story. They mentioned Sherrod's name, connecting Shirley and Juan, amplifying, blowing up his story like a balloon, like the balloon boy's folks did, when they were names in the news.

I wonder what Shirley Sherrod is doing. Maybe she's writing a book, or her story's been optioned. She's 62. Her husband, the Rev. Charles Sherrod, a Baptist minister and Professor teaching at Albany University (in Albany, Georgia), is a civil rights organizer, who participated in many of the arenas of the '60s movement. Maybe she's working with him on a local civil rights project.

I like her -- she's a kind, sophisticated person I'd enjoy getting to know. I feel any question I asked, any subject we might discuss, would get an interesting, truthful response. Her deeds, her "I did not discriminate"-- what she did and said to the NAACP has put a new word in my vocabulary.

If you have an problem, political or personal, because of race, age, or religion, Sherrod it. "Sherrod" is a way of fixing things.

Shirley Sherrod's 15 minutes of fame is more than minutes -- it's a light that's still glowing.
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