If you haven’t been following the latest tempest in media land, I’ll summarize. A few days ago a video clip of a speech by a Department of Agriculture official Shirley Sherrod hit the blogsphere via biggovernment.com. In the clip, Sherrod spoke of an incident in 1986 where she was struggling with racism — she was asked for a help by a Georgian white farmer and up till that point had been focused on being more engaged in helping black farmers. Naturally, any discrimination of white farmers is sure to be trot out by the “we’re afraid of black people” crowd, and the media storm was on.
The Director of the Department of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, decided, or maybe it was the White House, that Shirley Sherrod, had to go. And so she was told to resign, by blackberry, as quickly as possible. Now, asking for someone’s resignation, over remarks made about an incident 24 years ago, immediately without any actual inviestigation is exactly the kind of thing that the whole due process under law thing is supposed to prevent. As it turns out, Sherrod worked, 24 years ago for an organization called, The Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund which was charted in 1967 to assist black farmers. So her story, in context, would seem to be a little more interesting even then. And when the entire video got posted, eventually, the context became perfectly clear. Sherrod was speaking of the importance or being of the importance of helping all the poor, because all the poor are in the same boat. The farm family, Richard Spooner, at he heart of the the story, defended Sherrod, and said were it not for her they would have lost their farm, 24 years ago.
And the ensuing media coverage, and interviews with Sherrod have revealed her speech to be exactly that, a speech about helping all the poor not just focusing on race alone.
“Working with him made me see that it’s really about those who have versus those who don’t. They could be black, they could be white, they could be Hispanic. And it made me realize then that I needed to work to help poor people,” she says.
Isn’t this exactly the sort of thing all government officials should be doing? Of course, and for Tom Vilscack to do nothing more than watch a video clip, listen to talking heads, read a few blogs and decide that he needed to ask for Sherrod’s resignation shows that he is extremely unqualified for holding a governmental position.