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Shirley Sherrod Was Presumed Guilty

By   Follow Me on Twitter     Message Mary Shaw       (Page 1 of 1 pages)     Permalink

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In the United States of America, one is supposed to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. Nevertheless, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack hastily forced Shirley Sherrod to resign from her position in the Department based on the right-wing exploitation of a video snippet taken out of context.

According to Sherrod, when she tried to explain, no one would listen to her. No hearing, no trial, just immediate execution. Bam! You're fired!

And the NAACP's initial knee-jerk condemnation of Sherrod's speech was perhaps even less forgivable, since the speech was taped at an NAACP event. Surely if the speech were so out of line, the folks in the national headquarters would have heard about it before this. Still, the NAACP rushed to condemn Sherrod in a widely distributed press release, which was later redacted:

"Since our founding in 1909, the NAACP has been a multi-racial, multi-faith organization that -- while generally rooted in African-American communities -- fights to end racial discrimination against all Americans.

"We concur with US Agriculture Secretary Vilsack in accepting the resignation of Shirley Sherrod for her remarks at a local NAACP Freedom Fund banquet.

"Racism is about the abuse of power. Sherrod had it in her position at USDA. According to her remarks, she mistreated a white farmer in need of assistance because of his race.

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"We are appalled by her actions, just as we are with abuses of power against farmers of color and female farmers.

"Her actions were shameful. While she went on to explain in the story that she ultimately realized her mistake, as well as the common predicament of working people of all races, she gave no indication she had attempted to right the wrong she had done to this man."

No, folks, Shirley Sherrod's actions were not shameful. Far from it. In her speech, Sherrod relayed a parable for racial unity and redemption. And she explained how she had indeed righted that wrong. What's shameful are the actions of the Obama administration and the NAACP, who fell for the right-wing propaganda and reacted too quickly and very inappropriately.

As Sherrod herself described it, "for some reason, the stuff Fox and the Tea Party does is scaring the administration. I told them to get the whole tape and look at the whole tape and see how I tell people we have to get beyond race and work together."

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Still, they reacted first and asked questions later. And then they again had to go into damage control mode, but in the other direction.

So the right-wing propaganda machine scores another point. And the Obama administration and the NAACP look foolish.

It's this sort of weakness that may well lead to Republican victories in 2010 and 2012.

And, sadly, maybe those consequences will be all too well deserved.


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Mary Shaw is a Philadelphia-based writer and activist, with a focus on politics, human rights, and social justice. She is a former Philadelphia Area Coordinator for the Nobel-Prize-winning human rights group Amnesty International, and her views (more...)

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