Tuesday, January 25, 2011

SHIRLEY SHERROD REVISITED

Do you remember the name? Shirley Sherrod made headlines this past summer, forced to resign from her job in Georgia's Department of Rural Development, after blogger Andrew Breitbart posted on his Website, excerpts of an address Sherrod made at an NAACP meeting.

His video excerpt made her sound as if she were a bigoted black seeking revenge on whites for their racism.

The Department of Agriculture and a representative from the White House immediately, without checking the actual video, asked her for her resignation.

The original, unedited video revealed an educated, articulate woman trying to help a poor white couple -- bending over backwards not to discriminate against them, though her father had been murdered by a white man whom a white jury acquitted.

What Sherrod said and did -- that she had in her heart the need to help and be friends with an elderly white couple, and prevent them from becoming homeless was more than kind -- it was deeply touching.

Obama called her and apologized; the Dept of Agriculture offered Sherrod another job -- a position that she was apparently mulling over as the Sherrod news faded into other news.

Two weeks ago, Newsweek published a short article called the "The 16th Minute," a phone interview with Sherrod. An interviewer went over the events in her fifteen minutes of fame, and ended the interview, asking, "How has your life changed?"

Shirley Sherrod said, "Well, I’m not employed anymore."

I was shocked. She's 63, in her prime. This woman is a trained sociologist, as well as a high-level, experienced executive.

So what's she doing? How is she filling her days? Relaxing? Teaching at Albany State University in Albany, Georgia?" Maybe she's fund-raising for her husband? He's a preacher-teacher -- the Reverend Charles Sherrod has his own church in Albany.

I did a lecture-demonstration at Albany University. It's a tiny town; with a main street, the usual row of stores, supermarkets, and a residential section with fancy large homes, and the other side of the tracks section of town -- ramshackle houses for the blacks.

Obviously, Sherrod turned down the Department of Agriculture job.

Perhaps, Shirley Sherrod was insulted -- probably she was never thanked or respected for the work she'd been doing. Perhaps she's angry. and the only way she can express it is by not accepting the job.

Maybe she's quite content with being semi-retired, and a heroine, whom the nation admired -- at least some of us did, for a short while.

I don't want to forget her. I don't want other people to forget her reaction -- her helping the elderly white couple gives me hope that we will someday recover from the ugliness, the antagonism, between whites and blacks -- that what Shirley Sherrod did was the beginning -- the real beginning and basis -- for mending the fences -- removing the fences someday.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Extremely important statement you are making, I'm posting it on my wall. xxxooo

Tammy Westbrook said...

Emily, thanks for reminding us of Ms. Sherrod and her gracious stand in the face of malicious, false accusations. The fact that her life events might have justified a bigoted mindset only serves to illuminate the depth of her character given her decisions. I completely concur with your reasons for why we should not only not forget Shirley Sherrod but, in fact, take some lessons.

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