Shirley Sherrod: An American Tale of Redemption and Courage

Shirley Sherrod, as most of us know by now, is the Agriculture Department official vilified this week after a distorted video posted by right-wing blogger Andrew Breitbart went viral. When the facts were in, it was clear that Breitbart had engaged in an intentional and callous attempt to smear Ms. Sherrod, an African American, and the NAACP with a false charge of racism.

At first glance – and without the facts – Breitbart’s doctored tape seems to be credible, so much so that Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack asked for her resignation, and the NAACP quickly concurred with that decision – all in a span of just a few hours. But wait, let’s go to the whole tape, as Ms. Sherrod had urged. In it, we see the March 2010 meeting at which Ms. Sherrod described an incident that occurred 24 years ago, before she was an Agriculture official. Contrary to the viciously edited tape excerpts, Ms. Sherrod was really telling an admirable and uplifting story of redemption, respect, and racial justice. She had recounted how she had been called upon to help a white farmer save his farm at the same time that so many black farmers were losing. The unedited tape shows how she, the daughter of a man slain by a member of the Ku Klux Klan, America’s homegrown terrorists, had learned to overcome her initial misgivings and looked beyond race to treat all farmers – black and white – fairly.

For any reasonable person, the tape was that of an honorable, plain-speaking woman, remaining true to her core values of decency and fairness. In fact, while this whole incident was unfolding this week, the white farmer referred to in the tape has expressed sadness and outrage at the unjust way in which Ms. Sherrod was being treated, noting how she had saved his family farm. He considers her a friend.

Showing more grace under pressure than any of the other major players in this modern morality play, Ms. Sherrod's actions this week reflected her character as indicated in the complete tape. When pressured to condemn the Obama administration – which really is the subtext of all the right-wing blogging typified by Andrew Breitbart – she refused the bait, saying simply that she still supports the administration but was disappointed in how she was treated. It was Ms. Sherrod who was "fair and balanced."

While the right-wing media have flip-flopped in a heartbeat from demanding her resignation to criticizing the administration for doing exactly what they had demanded, Ms. Sherrod continues to model what we as individuals and as a nation should be. Well done, Ms. Sherrod. Well done.

Read more at The Opportunity Agenda website.

Tags: sherrod, obama, race, NAACP, Opportunity (all tags)


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