Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Shirley Sherrod Forced to Resign From Position With the United States Department of Agriculture

Shirley Sherrod, ex-USDA worker: White House forced me to resign over fabricated racial controversy

BY Aliyah Shahid
Tuesday, July 20th 2010, 2:46 PM

Shirley Sherrod, the former Georgia State Director of Rural
Development for the USDA, resigned on Monday after a slanderous right-wing provocation

A black employee who resigned from the Agriculture Department on
Monday said the White House forced her out after remarks that she says have sparked a fabricated racial controversy.

Shirley Sherrod, the former Georgia director of Rural Development,
said she received a phone call from the USDA's deputy undersecretary
Cheryl Cook on Monday while she was in a car. Cook told her that the
White House wanted her to call it quits.

"They called me twice," Sherrod told the Associated Press. "The last
time they asked me to pull over the side of the road and submit my
resignation on my Blackberry, and that's what I did."

The controversy began after several media organizations posted a
38-second video clip of Sherrod speaking to a local Georgia chapter of
the NAACP. She tells the group that she did not give a white farmer
"the full force of what I could do" after he asked for assistance.

The video surfaced days after the NAACP quarreled with Tea Party
members over allegations of racism.

Sherrod said her statements were taken out of context.

"My point in telling that story is that working with him helped me to
see that it wasn't a black and white issue," she said. Sherrod added
that the episode took place in 1986 before she worked for the
Agriculture Department.

Sherrod said that she eventually became friends with the farmer and
worked with him for two years to help him avoid foreclosure.

The woman who says she is the wife of the farmer referenced in the
clip told CNN Sherrod helped her family save their farm. Eloise
Spooner described Sherrod as "getting in there and doing all she could
do to help us."

President of the national NAACP, Benjamin Todd Jealous, supported the resignation, saying the organization has a zero-tolerance policy.

"According to her remarks, she mistreated a white farmer in need of
assistance because of his race," he said in a statement before
Sherrod's explanation.

"We are appalled by her actions, just as we are with abuses of power
against farmers of color and female farmers."

With News Wire Services

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- July 20, 2010

Official Ousted From Ag Department Had Taken USDA to Court, Won

The Agriculture Department has a lengthy history with the official
forced to resign Monday over a controversial YouTube clip -- it turns
out she and a group she helped found with her husband won millions
last year in a discrimination suit settlement with the federal

The Agriculture Department has a lengthy history with the official
forced to resign Monday over a controversial YouTube clip -- it turns
out she and a group she helped found with her husband won millions
last year in a discrimination suit settlement with the federal

The information about the suit only thickens the plot that has evolved
seemingly by the hour since Shirley Sherrod resigned late Monday as
the department's Georgia director of rural development.

She claims the video clip, which showed her telling a story about how
she withheld her full assistance to a white farmer, omitted key
details, and she argues she was pushed out by the Obama administration without getting a chance to tell her side. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is standing by his decision.

But it's not the first time Sherrod faced off against the federal
government. Days before she was appointed to the USDA post last year, her group reportedly won a $13 million settlement in a longstanding discrimination suit against the USDA known commonly as the Pigford case.

The Rural Development Leadership Network announced last summer that New Communities Inc. -- a group Sherrod formed with husband Charles, who is a civil rights activist, and with other black farmers -- had reached the agreement. The RDLN said the USDA had "refused" to offer new loans or restructure old loans to members of New Communities, leading to the discrimination claim.

The announcement said that in addition to the $13 million to New
Communities, Shirley and Charles Sherrod would each get $150,000 for "pain and suffering."

A USDA official told on Tuesday that the settlement had
"nothing to do with" Sherrod's hiring last year -- likewise, the
official said her resignation was only the result of her comments in
the video.

"This is all about her comments," the official said.

Sherrod's settlement was a drop in the bucket in terms of the money
the federal government has paid out in Pigford claims to other black
farmers over the years. The suit claimed the USDA racially
discriminated against black farmers by not giving them fair treatment
when they applied for loans or assistance. The case was first settled
in 1999, resulting to date in more than $1 billion in compensation
payments from the federal government.

In addition, the Obama administration has called for another $1.15
billion to settle claims for other black farmers -- Congress has not
yet granted the money.

However, the case has attracted some scrutiny.

Former Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer told Fox News that while those who were discriminated against "should be reimbursed," there are other hangers-on trying to game the system.

"The problem you have with the class-action lawsuits is a lot of
people jump in that may be on the fringe, that maybe don't deserve it,
that sounded good because their neighbor got a check ... (It) is very
expensive, very time consuming," Schafer said. "It probably in the
long run is going to be cheaper just to settle the whole thing -- so
some people will get paid that probably don't deserve it. And to me, I
don't like that kind of thing. I like to settle it on merit."

Vilsack appeared to reference the Pigford case, or the backstory
behind it, in his statement Tuesday defending his decision to
effectively dismiss Sherrod.

"Yesterday, I asked for and accepted Ms. Sherrod's resignation for two
reasons. First, for the past 18 months, we have been working to turn
the page on the sordid civil rights record at USDA and this
controversy could make it more difficult to move forward on correcting
injustices. Second, state rural development directors make many
decisions and are often called to use their discretion," he said.

Sherrod claims the administration never bothered to find out "the
truth" about the video clip. She says she was telling a story about
something that happened more than two decades ago when she was working for a local nonprofit group. She ended up helping that farmer and says she was, in recalling the story, trying to impart a lesson about the importance of looking beyond race.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Based on all that I have read, I think Shirley Sherrod's remarks were taken out of context. She was trying to explain how she had come to realize that being poor is NOT simply about race. Maybe she is a racist to some extent, but that should not be the issue. The issue should be if she has allowed it to affect her job. If one listens to her full speach, and then reads what the white farmer's wife has to say about the situation, it becomes quite clear that she did NOT let race be a factor in that particular situation. I applaud her honesty.