Only days after the NAACP passed a resolution condemning racist elements in the tea-party movement, the right returned fire by bringing to light racism within the federal government and the NAACP. Sort of, maybe. It all started a couple of days ago when Andrew Breitbart's Big Government website posted a video of Shirley Sherrod, Georgia's director of rural development for the Department of Agriculture, telling a story at an NAACP dinner in March of 2010. In the clip, Sherrod, who is black, admits to not helping a white farmer as much as she could have when she worked for the Federation of Southern Cooperative/Land Assistance Fund 24 years ago.
Yup, that all sounds pretty racist! The NAACP certainly thought so after the video emerged, they put out a statement saying that the organization was "appalled by her actions, just as we are with abuses of power against farmers of color and female farmers." Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack thought so too within hours of the video's posting, he "asked for and received" Sherrod's resignation, because the department has "zero tolerance for discrimination."
But as is often the case with anything that turns up on the Internet, things may not be as they appear. Shocking, right? Sherrod, for one, claims that her remarks were taken completely out of context.
"I went on to work with many more white farmers," she said. "The story helped me realize that race is not the issue, it's about the people who have and the people who don't. When I speak to groups, I try to speak about getting beyond the issue of race."
So the speech was really about why her racist feelings were wrong? We will probably find out soon enough. Andrew Breitbart says he never had possession of the complete speech, but the owner of company that shot it, while refusing to release it to the media until he gets permission from the NAACP, tells Talking Points Memo "that the full speech is exactly as Sherrod described, and that she goes on to explain learning the error of her initial impression and helping the farmer keep his farm."
Pfff. If she helped the white farmer keep his farm, then he and his wife would probably be publicly defending Sherrod right about now, wouldn't they?
The wife of the white farmer allegedly discriminated against by the USDA's rural development director for Georgia said Shirley Sherrod "kept us out of bankruptcy."
.... [Eloise] Spooner, who considers Sherrod a "friend for life," said the federal official worked tirelessly to help the Iron City couple hold onto their land as they faced bankruptcy back in 1986.
"Her husband told her, ‘You're spending more time with the Spooners than you are with me,' " Spooner told the AJC. "She took probably two or three trips with us to Albany just to help us out."
Oh, okay then. The NAACP has apparently recanted its condemnation of Sherrod and launched an investigation. Maybe an investigation is something that Vilsack (and, possibly, the White House) should have done before just taking the word of Andrew Breitbart.