By Todd Steven Burroughs
That U.S. Department of Agriculture staffer—you know, the one the Obama administration threw under the bus Monday because of a video mysteriously surfacing that showed her recalling how she once denied a white man some services? Yeah, her—you know what she should do? She should dust herself off, take off her earrings and….well, never mind.
Now it has been made clear that Shirley Sherrod’s comments about her withholding some services to a racist white farmer more than 20 years ago, pre-USDA, were part of a story she was telling to a NAACP crowd, one about racial growth, ironically enough. So where does she go to get her reputation back? How much Ajax and Comet do you have to use to scrub your smeared name off the Web?
Oh, and by the way, the USDA is now sorry and thinking about un-firing her. Does she want to go back to work, since now calmer heads have prevailed?
“Because of all the publicity surrounding what happened…how would I be treated once I’m back there? I just don’t know,” she said on ABC’s “Good Morning America” Wednesday morning.
She told NBC’s “Today” show: “For them all day yesterday to say they were standing by their decision and now at this late hour to be saying they’re now willing to look at the facts, it’s hard to take at this point.” And God Bless Her, she still is supporting Obama.
So what happens—at work, at the grocery store, at church—after 48 hours nonstop of being charged as a “Black racist” around the world, on every so-called “news” channel? Does she go underground and reappear as a novelist years later, a la Sister Souljah? Does she get a radio talk show and give back what she got?
Wait, I got it: how about she, Van Jones and the leader of the now-defunct ACORN get a cable reality show called “Slice and Dice,” for Black people who unfairly are called racists by a racist Right Wing brandishing Final Cut Express software instead of Klan robes?
Thanks to the white farmer in question for stepping up and halting the slaughter in mid-stroke. Kudos also to my old boss, Benjamin Todd Jealous of the NAACP, who publicly admitted he had been duped by the right-wing and quickly changed his story. It would have been nice if Jealous had waited a little before cheering on Obama’s bus, but I could imagine the pressure he and the NAA were under, since it’s been less than 10 days since the group called the Tea Party out.
Man, I miss the days when people waited for all the facts to air—maybe even dig for some!—before the 1,000-second media circus would begin. Of course, the big winner here is the Right, which continues to prove, two years after Reverend Jeremiah Wright, that any video of any Black person associated in any way with Obama saying anything someone white doesn’t like is international, round-the-clock news. Even if the video is edited to create a fraudulent narrative.
Many lessons of the Sherrod affair have been listed. We’ll see if they’re learned the next time the Right tries this video editing stunt (and it will). Meanwhile, send some candy and flowers to the USDA for Sister Shirley, a sister who tried to teach people the meaning of personal growth and civilization in a world with too little of either, and got publicly kicked in the shins for it.
Todd Steven Burroughs is co-author with Herb Boyd of the forthcoming book “Civil Rights, Yesterday and Today.”