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Shirley Sherrod: in her own words

Shirley Sherrod, the Georgia director of Rural Development for the agriculture department, deserved better. A conservative blogger took a snippet from a 43-minute speech she gave to the NAACP’s Freedom Forum banquet in March to paint her as a federal official using her position to actively discriminate against a white person. Richard Cohen gives a nice recap of the last 48 hours if you need it. But I want you to take the time to watch the full speech.

The story Sherrod tells is quintessentially American. She talks about how she vowed to help black people “and only black people” after her father was murdered by white men. And she talks about how her eyes were opened to and her heart rescued from the hate encircling her.

But where am I going with this? I couldn’t say 45 years ago, I couldn’t stand here and say what I’m saying, what I will say tonight. Like I told you, God helped me to see that it’s not just about black people. It’s about poor people. And I’ve come a long way. I knew that I couldn’t live with hate, you know. As my mother has said to so many, "If we had tried to live with hate in our hearts we’d probably be dead now." But I come to realize that we have to work together. And, you know, it’s sad that we don’t have a room full of whites and blacks here tonight, 'cause we have to overcome the divisions that we have. We have to get to the point where, as Toni Morrison said, race exists, but it doesn’t matter.

We have to work just as hard. I know that division is still here but our communities are not going to thrive, you know, our children won’t have the communities that they need to stay in, live in and have a good life if we can’t figure this out, you all. White people, black people, Hispanic people, we all have to do our part to make our communities a safe place, a healthy place, a good environment.

....The change has to start with us.

Yes, the change has to start with us.

By Jonathan Capehart  | July 21, 2010; 10:01 AM ET
Categories:  Capehart  | Tags:  Jonathan Capehart  
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The administration acted too quickly...Why? Because their political tactic of playing the race card through their patsies at the NAACP backfired horribly. Also interesting to wonder if other videos hurtful to the NAACP's image will surface.

Posted by: twann9852 | July 21, 2010 10:27 AM | Report abuse

We learned a lot as a country yesterday. Yes, there are some who would create and air wildly distorted material if it fits their own purposes. Yes, there's a reason for due process and for getting both sides of the story. And yes, as Ms. Sherrod describes, we've begun to move forward on issues of race.

It was a painful day, but we might be the better for it.

Posted by: jack824 | July 21, 2010 10:44 AM | Report abuse

Twann, this video wasn't hurtful to the NAACP's image. A tiny snippet taken out of context looked bad. This video is great. You need to watch the whole thing. If you already have and you came away with a bad taste in your mouth you need to watch it again.

Posted by: jfbrady | July 21, 2010 10:56 AM | Report abuse

Thank you Jonathan for the BEST reporting - the FULL story and the lady in her own words.

Disappointing coverage giving Andrew Breitbart - who has NO credibility on UNEDITED tapes, TV time to continue to pollute the dialogue with his agenda of hatred.

Bless you, Jonathan!

Posted by: DariMD1 | July 21, 2010 11:06 AM | Report abuse

I don't need to read the whole speech. The excerpt by Capehart says it all. I've probably read ten stories on the issue. What a moving, true to the heart speech! I agree with the blogger above -- the American people should have learned a lot out of this incident. I just hope there is some way that a decent, kind woman who puts our society and the next generation above her personal pain due to the death of her father, can get justice and on with her life. We need more people like her in government. As a white person who grew up on welfare I can assure you that she has it completely right when she say's it's about poverty, not race. It's also about having parents who care for their kid's upbringing no matter their economic status. Capehart's post says it all. Short and to the point.

Posted by: Fergie303 | July 21, 2010 11:10 AM | Report abuse

The most motivated people in the NAACP vs. Tea Party movement debate seem to be the loons on fringes of left and right.

It's absurd and wrong for rightwingnuts to defend the original application of Mrs. Sherrod's remarks. She got shafted and it's wrong.
But liberal crazies see the vast rightwing conspiracy... yet everyone got taken. The NAACP and msnbc talkers initially condemned her, to say nothing of her employers hanging her out to dry.
But today, instead of learning anything, people just parrot the same playgroud-fight baloney about 'You started it" and we get nowhere and learn nothing.
We're not ready to deal with this as grownups because it's crack for your emotions and fears.

Posted by: slatt321 | July 21, 2010 11:14 AM | Report abuse

So Fox first reported this story as a woman who was a racist, and that was Obama's fault. Now we find out she was the opposite, an empathetic and tolerant adult, and according to Richard Cohen, the fall-out is Obama's fault. What isn't his fault Richard? I do agree, though, that he should have been madder at BP.

Posted by: johnkomalley | July 21, 2010 11:33 AM | Report abuse

In a state of ignorance, Vilsack demands her immediate resignation, by phone, without anyone talking to her. This is the type of garbage that happens when the club of racism is swung as a purely political weapon.

Collateral damage of the NAACP's war on the Tea Party.

Posted by: kitchendragon50 | July 21, 2010 11:55 AM | Report abuse

Thanks, Jonathan for directing me to the clip. Of course, the knee jerk reaction of Tom Vilsack is ludicrous. This is the rush to judgment of someone played by the goon squads on cable tv.

Ms. Sherrod and the old Bob Dylan need to team up in a duet for Sec. Vilsack and serenade him with the old tune -- "Only a Pawn in Their Game." Both have it right! And that department needs to get into the 21st C. The new South [nor North] has not yet freed the wage slaves! If there's any $$$$ in an opportunity, some consultants with contractor status will be called in AND the workforce will be trapped with a downwardly mobile spiral into poverty. Another definition of "sinecure" = commissioner.

Posted by: bhburt646 | July 21, 2010 12:11 PM | Report abuse

"Doing my job" consists of giving the white farmer a white lawyer's phone number and then leaving him to fend for himself under the premise that he's "with his own"?? This is not only racism, it's also dereliction of duty by a public official.

You would expect a public official with a Masters Degree to be a little smarter than to air their racist dirty laundry on camera...that is, if they care about their position.

Posted by: Digitalman08 | July 21, 2010 1:25 PM | Report abuse

The entire NAACP is an outdated and soon to be irrelevant organization, struggling to keep solvent...In other words, they need cash which is why the regress to stories of the past and try to link them to the present through baseless innuendos. This is quite ironic from a supposedly "progressive" organization.

These innuendos are most commonly followed by...."Ya'll know what I'm talking about". Shirley is adept at this tactic (she uses it about 10 times in her speech), just as Hillary Clinton was when she used it with the NAACP by telling them "Republicans run Congress like a plantation..ya'll know what I'm talking about". Well, Hillary, no, I don't really know what you're talking about...Can anyone explain??

Posted by: Digitalman08 | July 21, 2010 1:35 PM | Report abuse

The most motivated people in the NAACP vs. Tea Party movement debate seem to be the loons on fringes of left and right.

It's absurd and wrong for rightwingnuts to defend the original application of Mrs. Sherrod's remarks. She got shafted and it's wrong.
But liberal crazies see the vast rightwing conspiracy... yet everyone got taken. The NAACP and msnbc talkers initially condemned her, to say nothing of her employers hanging her out to dry.


So true. The right is all-to-eager to stick it to the NAACP and at the same time the left completely ignores why Breitbart published his clip: the crowd loved what Sherrod did to the white farmer before she went on to admit she was wrong.

Posted by: bbface21 | July 21, 2010 2:22 PM | Report abuse

Listening to Sherrod's speech is enough to give you whiplash.
Yeah, the original clip was out of context. She redeemed herself but the crowd sure enjoyed her sticking it to the white farmer a whole more than they did her story of moving past it. Wasn't that racism from that black audience?

As Sherrod went on, she launched into a blanket denunciation of the Bush Administration and all Republicans for their "racism" on the health care debate. All of them? Really? All they did was have policy differences with the current administration but, no, Mrs. Sherrod attributes that to racism and their problems with a black president. Isn't that blanket condemnation "racism?"
And BTW, isn't that a Hatch Act violation? Partisan politics in a public appearance by an administration official? Yes.
Give us some more Sherrod tapes, Capehart!

Posted by: parkbench | July 21, 2010 11:32 PM | Report abuse

Ms. Sherrod violated the Federal Hatch Act.

Posted by: bobbo2 | July 22, 2010 5:43 AM | Report abuse

what i get from this is if you have money, you need to give it to somebody that doesn't have money, whether you busted your arse for it or not. if you have it, you are no freaking good. somethin wrong with that way of thinkin.this woman should not be in the government.

Posted by: 12thgenamerican | July 23, 2010 6:14 PM | Report abuse

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