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The furor over USDA official Shirley Sherrod’s speech to an NAACP group in Georgia continued in full pitch yesterday and this morning. See CNN story here, the Washington Post here and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution here.
In case you missed it, Sherrod, who is the African-American state rural development appointee for Georgia, was fired for a speech she made where she said she once withheld help to a white couple. A clip of the speech was put up on a conservative web site and on Glenn Beck’s show on Fox News, and Sherrod was fired by USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack.
This morning, Vilsack says he is reconsidering his decision. Maybe that’s because, as the Atlanta paper reports, “The full, uncut video of a federal agricultural official’s NAACP speech purporting racial scheming, told a different story than the barely-three-minute snippet that cost Sherrod her job.”
Also, Sherrod was defended by the white farmers she talked about in her speech. “Sherrod, ‘kept us out of bankruptcy,’ said Eloise Spooner, 82, of Iron City in southwest Georgia. Spooner, in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, added she considers Sherrod a ‘friend for life,’ according to the AJC story.
In the full tape of the speech, the AJC reports, Sherrod recounts how she had sent the Spooners to a white lawyer who had taken their money but did nothing to help them. The lawyer told the Spooners they needed to “just let go of the farm.”
Sherrod said the episode taught her a lesson. “It’s about the poor,” Sherrod said, just over 20 minutes into the speech. “It made me see it really was about those who have, versus those who don’t … black, white or Hispanic. It made me realize that I needed to work to help poor people … those who don’t have access the way others have. And I went on to work with many more white farmers. The story helped me realize that race is not the issue, it’s about the people who have and the people who don’t.”
The whole story is a mess, and a picture of how both politics and race relations are twisted beyond recognition. Through it all, however, we are all redeemed by the relationship that has formed between Sherrod and the Spooners. They’ve been talking since the controversy began. “She’s very sad about it,” Eloise Spooner said. “She told me she was so glad we talked. I just can’t believe this is happening to her.”