Shirley Sherrod: casualty of escalating 'tea party'-NAACP race spat?
Shirley Sherrod was forced to resign from her Agriculture Department post for comments in a video posted online that shows she discriminated against a white farmer, conservatives say. The video makes Shirley Sherrod the newest focal point of a race-baiting feud between the left and right.
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In interviews since her resignation, Sherrod has said that the video clip is taken out of context and that she was making a larger point about "getting beyond race."Skip to next paragraph
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"I went on to work with many more white farmers," she told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "The story helped me realize that race is not the issue, it's about the people who have, and the people who don't. When I speak to groups, I try to speak about getting beyond the issue of race."
Sherrod says she didn't fight the resignation demand because she felt it would be fruitless. So far, the entire video has not been released.
In the clip that has been released, Sherrod recounts a white farmer coming to her, asking for help to save his farm. "What he didn't know, while he was talking all that time trying to show me he was superior to me, was I was trying to decide just how much help I was going to give him … I didn't give him the full force of what I could do," she says. She ended up taking him to "one of his own kind" – a white lawyer – "who would take care of him," she adds before the video ends.
Justice Department under scrutiny
The video comes at a time when the Obama administration is facing scrutiny for its attitude toward minorities. The the US Civil Rights Commission recently questioned whether Department of Justice was enforcing its policies "in a race-neutral fashion."
The allegation arises from the Justice Department's decision to drop a voter-intimidation lawsuit against members of the New Black Panther Party who brought billy clubs to a Philadelphia poll in 2008. Former Justice Department attorney J. Christian Adams testified last week that Deputy Attorney General Julie Fernandes told him: "The Voting Section will never – or will not, at least while she is there – bring any more cases against blacks or other national minorities."
Skittishness over perceptions of unfair racial preferences in the Obama administration may have played a role in the rapid call for Sherrod's resignation, especially with Democrats facing a tough battle at the polls in November.
"We have been working hard through the past 18 months to reverse the checkered civil rights history at the department and take the issue of fairness and equality very seriously," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement.
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