Posted on July 20, 2010

USDA Official Resigns Amid Race Controversy

Andrew Golis, Yahoo! News, July 20, 2010

An employee of the Department of Agriculture has resigned, after conservative media outlets posted video Monday of her describing a time in the past when she hadn’t used the “full force” of her abilities to help a farmer because he was white.

In the video, Shirley Sherrod, who is black, recounts having been asked to help a white farmer avoid foreclosure. She says she was torn over how much to help him because so many black farmers were also struggling, and decided to do just enough to be able to say she’d tried:

I didn’t give him the full force of what I could do. I did enough. . . . So I took him to a white lawyer. . . . So I figured if I would take him to one of them, his own kind would take care of him.

Sherrod spoke to CNN on Tuesday, explaining that she told the story of her actions–which, she said, occurred 24 years ago when she was working for a nonprofit, not the USDA–to illustrate how she has since realized that everything is not about race but “about those who have versus those who do not have.” She says she later became friends with the farmer and his wife.

{snip} She told CNN that she tried to explain to USDA officials that the incident was in the past, but said “for some reason, the stuff Fox and the tea party does is scaring the administration.”


NAACP CEO Ben Jealous was also quick to condemn Sherrod’s actions, though. {snip}


In response, Sherrod told CNN that it was “unfortunate that the NAACP would make a statement without even checking to see what happened. This was 24 years ago, and I’m telling a story to try to unite people.”

[Editor’s Note: Shirley Sherrod’s remarks to the NAACP about how she helped a white farmer can be heard in a video accompanying this story.]