Monday, July 26, 2010

Let's Teach Sherrod's Speech in Schools

The Power Of Redemption

Shirley Sherrod's speech, and her story, has lessons for us all.

Peggy Noonan

She was smeared by right-wing media, condemned by the NAACP, and canned by the Obama administration. It wasn't pretty, what was done this week to Shirley Sherrod.

Here's a way to get some good. This September, when school begins, we should make the speech required viewing in the nation's high schools. It packs quite a lesson within quite a story.

Sherrods' Story

"My father was a farmer, and growing up on the farm my dream was to get as far away from the farm and Baker County as I could get." She worked "picking cotton, picking cucumbers, shaking peanuts. . . . Doing all that work on the farm, it will make you get an education." She wanted to escape. "The older folks know what I'm talking about."

Go North, she thought. She'd seen black people who'd moved up North return on vacation: "You know how they came back talking, and came back looking." The audience laughed. "I learned later some of those cars they drove home were rented." The audience laughed louder.

She was 17 when her father was killed, in 1965. After that, one night, a cross was burned on their lawn. Her mother had a gun, and black men from throughout the county came and surrounded the white men who surrounded the house. Shirley was terrified and hid in a back room, praying. That night something changed. "I made the decision that I would stay and work."

She wouldn't leave the South but change it. Here she addressed the youthful members of her audience: "Young people, I want you to know when you are true to what God wants you to do, the path just opens up, and things just come to you. God is good, I can tell you that."

But when she made her decision, "I was making that commitment to black people only."
She didn't care about whites.

Almost a quarter-century ago, she was working for a farmers aid group when she was asked to help a couple named Roger and Eloise Spooner. They were losing their farm, and they were white.

Mr. Spooner made a poor impression. He "took a long time talking." She thought he was trying to establish a superior intelligence. "What he didn't know while he was talking all that time . . . was I was trying to decide just how much help I was gonna give him. I was struggling with the fact that so many black people had lost their farmland." So she did enough to meet her responsibilities, but no more. She took him to "a white lawyer," figuring "that his own kind will take care of him."

The lawyer took the farmer's money and, she said, did little else. She assumed things had been taken care of. But in May 1987, Mr. Spooner received a foreclosure notice and he called her, frantic. His house was to be sold a week later on the courthouse steps, and no motion had been filed to stop it.

They all met. The lawyer suggested the farmer retire. "I said, 'I can't believe you said that.'"

Indignant, she set herself to save the Spooners' farm. "That's when it was revealed to me that it's about poor versus those who have," not white versus black. "It opened my eyes." She worked the phones, reached out to those who could help, talked to more lawyers, called officials.

And she saved that farm.

"Working with him," said Ms. Sherrod, "made me see . . . that it's really about those who have versus those who don't." It's helping the frightened and powerless. "And they could be black, they could be white, they could be Hispanic."

She said that 45 years ago she couldn't say what she will say tonight: "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 my heart, we probably be dead now.'" She said it was "sad" that the room was not "full of whites and blacks." She quoted Toni Morrison: We have to get to a point where "race exists but it doesn't matter."

There is beauty in the speech, and bravery too. It was brave because her subject wasn't the nation's failures and your failures but her failures. The beauty is that it deals with the great subject of our lives: how to be better, how to make the world better. It's not a perfect speech—she's tendentious in her support for health care and takes cheap shots at Republicans. And it's not the poor versus the rich, it's the powerful helping the powerless. But it's good.

You know what happened this week. Someone cut the 45-minute speech down to less than two minutes, to the part in which she talked about not wanting to help white people. Andrew Breitbart ran it on one of his websites and made Ms. Sherrod look like a race-game-playing government bully.

And then the Spooners stepped in, and this time they saved her. Is Ms. Sherrod a racist, they were asked. "No way in the world," said Roger Spooner. "She stuck with us." Eloise: "She helped us, so we're helping her."

We are not skeptical enough, of what the news media can cook up in its little devil's den. That anyone can be the victim of a high-tech lynching, and because of this, we have to be careful, slow down, look deeper.

We live in a time when what you say is taped, and those tapes can be cut, and the cuts can be ruinous, and if you think it only happens to the rich and famous, think again. It's coming to a theater near you.

And for students? What can they learn? How about: Individuals can change, just like nations. They can get better, if they want to be.

What's more important than that? What do students need to hear more?

It really can be a teachable moment. It can.




Even non-students can learn a thing or two, including "we're too quick to judge" and we're "not skeptical enough of what news media can cook up in its little devil's den," writes Noonan. As for our country's teenagers, they'd be lucky to soak up this all-important life lesson: "Individuals can change, just like nations. They can get better, if they want to be."



Is there a racial double standard here?

Lately, there has been loads of comments by right wing radicals who..
(1) make racist remarks about blacks while also
(2) claiming that blacks are the real racists.

The results shows...because of their racist views ....
We are left with inaccurate or altered statements from people, not doing their homework.

This seems to be a political practice in the US, to take part of what someone says; and manipulate public views. Therefore, shaping public opinion, by airing or printing only half the truth.

"We find it ironic that in the 100 years of USDA's history of discrimination not a single white person has been dismissed for discrimination," Mikheila Sherrod, wife of Kenyatta Sherrod, said. "However, a black woman who is doing her job well is falsely accused of discrimination in an altered video and it was decided that she can no longer do a credible and nondiscriminatory job of dispensing USDA rural development programs and must resign."


Ms. Sherrod termination was immediately aired with a reason of claim to being a racist when now we later find the video tape was edited.

I believe after reading some of the responses to the news of what the media has aired, people are quick to jump the gun, and believe the report instead of waiting it out or doing some research on their own, before rendering a decision.

Sherrod, who is black and was working at the time for a nonprofit group, said she learned that the plight of poverty goes beyond race.


The rural development director for the Agriculture Department in Georgia, said she was inclined not to return to the agency. Secretary Tom Vilsack on Wednesday said he was asking her to return to use her expertise to help move the department past its checkered history in race relations, but she told the “Today” show on NBC that she did not want the burden of solving the department’s racial problems to rest entirely on her.

SHERROD: Why am I out?

They asked me to resign. And, in fact, they harassed me as I was driving back to the state office from West Point, Georgia, yesterday. I had at least three calls telling me the White House wanted me to resign.

Shirley Sherrod is asking; How did she get ousted out of the USDA and the NAACP without any explanation?

When I made that commitment I was making that commitment to black people and to black people only," she said in the video released Tuesday. "But you know, God will show you things. ... You realize that the struggle is really about poor people."

She said she would like to have a conversation with Mr. Obama, but does not believe he owes her an apology.

“I’d like to talk to him a little bit about the experiences of people like me, people at the grass-roots level, people who live out there in rural America, people who live in the South,” she said on the show.

“I know he does not have that kind of experience. Let me help him a little bit with how we think, how we live, and the things that are happening.”

Once the truth came out, Ms. Sherrod had gained instant fame and emerged as the heroine of a compelling story about race and redemption.

What's happening here is; she was guilty in the public view, until proven innocent.
It would be great, if the wheels of Justice turned at the same speed on both sides of the spectrum.

To rid our country of racist thoughts and views, especially in the political level.

How and why would you be forced to resign, just because you are relating a story, a 24-year-old incident to make a point? It's beyond me.............

Seems as though it's time for the Nation to DEAL with this can of rotten worms.

"Having reviewed the full tape, spoken to Ms. Sherrod, and most importantly heard the testimony of the white farmers mentioned in this story, we now believe the organization that edited the documents did so with the intention of deceiving millions of Americans."

How could the NAACP render a statement , without a full investigation of the tape?

Sherrod's family, statement about the NAACP, we are disappointed in their actions and rush to judgment. As fellow civil rights activists and Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) members, my mother, my father, Charles Sherrod, and all our family members, have stood in support of the NAACP and fought along side them.

"To see them desert us in our time of need has been difficult — shame on you."

Pretty much everyone else had egg on his face — from the conservative bloggers and pundits who first pushed the inaccurate story.

It remains unclear who edited and released the shorter video.

Sherrod, in a TV interview Tuesday morning, said she lost her job because the Obama administration overreacted to the original story.

"They were not interested in hearing the truth. No one wanted to hear the truth," she said.

"It is in fact a sad day when one cannot speak with honesty of their personal transformation without being condemned."


Bottom line................

If she was simply relating an anecdotal story from 1986 to make a point about how her racial perceptions have changed, give her back her job.

Stop the Character Assassination Of Our People (Blacks) Without Due Process.