Monthly Archives: July 2010

In Praise of Shirley Sherrod, George Wallace and Malcolm X

Shirley Sherrod an official with the USDA, recently lost her job because she told an audience at a local NAACP chapter meeting that she had not given a white farmer “the full force of what I could do” to help him save the family farm.

She then went on to say that she knew it was a mistake to differentiate by color and had taken steps to help the farmer keep his home. In fact, she and the farmer’s family became friends and they credited her with saving their home.

Fox News showed a snippet from the video where she spoke about not doing all she could do to help the white farmer, and accused her of being a racist. Without seeing the whole video, Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture told her to resign. The national office of the NAACP also condemned her.

http://www.cnn.com/2010/POLITICS/07/20/agriculture.employee.naacp/index.html?hpt=T2

Oh yeah, did I mention that the story she told was from 1984?

What is going on? It seems lately that any time a non-white person mentions race in any way they are called racist by racists who know nothing about racism.

What is even more appalling to me, is that a high ranking member of the Obama administration has a knee-jerk reaction, cowers under the table, and tells this woman to resign without hearing the whole video. I’m shocked that the national NAACP office failed to investigate. All they had to do was ask one of their local chapters for the video.

I don’t know who to be angrier at, Fox News and friends for making up a story about this good woman, or the cowardly Obama administration, or the NAACP.

I think we should be grateful to Shirley Sharrod and other people like her who have the courage to admit past issues, perceptions and behavior toward another race or ethnicity, and who have had the courage to change.

In my work as diversity and inclusion consultant, I have met numerous people and heard countless stories of people who in the past had racist, sexist, homophobic ideas, and totally changed their thinking to become diversity champions. I’ve had people come into my workshops and dialogue groups with biases and stereotypes ideas, and leave without them after they had their first meaningful interaction with people who were different than them.

I’m worried about the binary thinking that seems to be overtaking parts of our population. Senator Robert Byrd, Governor George Wallace and Malcolm X were three people in history who were known for their negative views and behaviors towards other races, and then publicly disavowed those beliefs and brought others with them.

I’m disgusted, and angry at the way some of these loudmouths are able to scream racism every time a person of color or anyone else brings up the topic of race or discrimination.

I’m disgusted and angry at how defensive the Obama administration and other people get when this happens. There is still racism, there is still discrimination. It’s ok to discuss cultural differences, and share cultural information.

I’m sick and tired of hearing Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, et al scream racism any time the issue of race is mentioned.

Wake up America! Those are the people who are creating racial tension. Those are the people who are impeding us from becoming one stronger, greater, more inclusive United States of America.

I’m waiting for the Obama administration to stand up to these loudmouth pundits and their followers, and stop being afraid to talk about diversity, and stop apologizing for mentioning race, and ethnicity. Everyone is not the same, and it makes life and living in this country even better.

Meanwhile I continue to be grateful for people like Shirley Sherrod and celebrate each time I hear someone else admitting and changing their mistaken beliefs about people who are different.

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