A U.S Department of Agriculture employee no longer has the job she’s held for decades because of an alleged racist comment she made at an NAACP banquet in March, according to a report by the Washington Post. After a video clip was posted on the Internet, both NAACP President Benjamin Jealous and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack condemned Shirley Sherrod’s said her comments were “discrimination” and that they were “appalled by her actions.”
Sherrod claims that the White House pressured her to resign after a conservative website claimed there was racism in the administration, as Sherrod herself is African American, according to CBS News. Sherrod said in her speech that, over 20 years ago, she could have helped save a white farmer’s land, but she didn’t feel as if she had done her job correctly.
Scapegoat or Criminal?
To say that an entire administration is racist is ludicrous. Sherrod is of African American ethnicity, and has been at her government job for over two decades. She made a comment about her position 20 years ago about an incident that changed her perspective on life, and she was trying to illustrate such an example.
If we’re going to use this standard for racism in the Obama administration, then Justice Sonia Sotomayor should not have made it past the Judiciary Committee’s hearings in the Senate for her “wise Latina” remarks she made years ago.
Other officials from previous administrations have been accused of being racist. When Hurricane Katrina slammed into New Orleans in August of 2005, many African American leaders in New Orleans and Congress blamed President George W. Bush as being racist. New Orleans City Councilman Oliver Thomas said that people are too afraid of black people to try to save them. Diane Watson, a Democratic Representative from California, said the response to the disaster looked “dysfunctional” in a report posted to the CBS News website in the weeks after the natural disaster.
Bush was never forced to resign the presidency for any of his actions, letting several thousand people in New Orleans suffer being just the tip of the iceberg in the human suffering that happened because of Bush’s administration. That is another debate altogether.
The Obama White House reacted too swiftly in slamming Sherrod’s remarks once they were made public. Everyone, at some point in their lives, wonders if they could have done more in their job duties to help someone in need. Doctors, lawyers, nurses, soldiers, truck drivers, mothers and fathers lose sleep at night at least some point in their lives second-guessing what they could have done differently. Everyone, no matter the background of their ethnicity, wonders what they could have done to alleviate human suffering on any level, and not just that of any one skin color. A life is a life.
Yes, the human toll placed upon Africans and African Americans in the American past with slavery, discrimination, and the Civil Rights Movement is absolutely horrific. No one doubts that leaders in this country should have done more to protect its own citizens when it came to persons adjudged to be less-than-human because of the color of their skin.
The United States is not the only area of the world to go through this trial-by-fire of its soul. Someone named Adolf Hitler tried to exterminate an entire religious group in Europe before and during World War II. Paranoid Joseph Stalin killed more than 20 million of his own people in a political witch hunt to try to maintain power in the Soviet Union following the war.
These blatant acts of human suffering will not go away when laws are enacted or when wars are fought. They will only disappear when human beings realize that kindness is more important than money, helping others outweighs prejudice, and hope is stronger than fear.
If it is true that the Obama White House forced Sherrod to quit because of her comments, he should be ashamed. Obama should have either defended her to his critics because she had her job long before Obama took office, or he should have ignored the conservative rhetoric that will stop at nothing to tarnish the first African American ever elected president in this country.
Obama is trying his hardest to help all Americans through these tough times. Suffering is color-blind, and affects all of us collectively. There’s already enough misery in this country that we didn’t need to heap on some more to one lady who was simply trying to make sense of her job 20 years ago.
The Washington Post and CBS News contributed information for this article.