Shirley Sherrod: Race, Resignation, and Reality

Heather Murphy-Raines

Heather Murphy-Raines/Scout's Honor
She was told the White House pressured the USDA to ask for her resignation from the Obama administration. The Obama administration now denies it, but what's done is done. 

African American USDA Georgia Director of Rural Development Shirley Sherrod admitted on video in a speech given to a NAACP chapter that she did not do as much as she could twenty-four years ago to help a white farmer save his farm from foreclosure at first because of the color of his skin. 

In her words, she figured his own people could help him.

Yet it seems that was not the whole story.

There was more to it than the manipulated and out of context bits reported in the media. More to it than the NAACP's snap judgment of her as racist.

Her full speech was one of self-discovery. 

One of learning, it was less about race and more about giving help to all those less fortunate. The have-nots.

Quite the opposite of racism.

A woman whose own father was lynched by white men when she was 17 years old eventually took it upon herself to help the white farmer. The white farmer? He fully backs up her story.

Still that leaves her? Judged. Labeled racist. End of Story.

It seems though in this world of political correctness, we are quick to take words out of context rather than listen to the message. Her message was one of giving a hand up to all the poor, white or black.

This comes out at the same time as a study finds discrimination against white students who are socioeconomically disadvantaged at universities, which is just the opposite of Shirley's message.

Seattle Times reports:

"Last year, two Princeton sociologists, Thomas Espenshade and Alexandria Walton Radford, published a book-length study of admissions and affirmative action at eight highly selective colleges and universities. Unsurprisingly, they found that the admissions process seemed to favor black and Hispanic applicants, while whites and Asians needed higher grades and SAT scores to get in. But what was striking, as Russell K. Nieli pointed out on the conservative website Minding the Campus, was which whites were most disadvantaged by the process: the downscale, the rural and the working-class.

This was particularly pronounced among the private colleges in the study. For minority applicants, the lower a family's socioeconomic position, the more likely the student was to be admitted. For whites, though, it was the reverse. An upper-middle-class white applicant was three times more likely to be admitted than a lower-class white with similar qualifications.

This provides statistical confirmation for what alumni of highly selective universities already know. The most underrepresented groups on elite campuses often aren't racial minorities; they're working-class whites (and white Christians in particular) from conservative states and regions. Inevitably, the same underrepresentation persists in the elite professional ranks these campuses feed into: in law and philanthropy, finance and academia, the media and the arts."

And we wonder why those Tea-partiers, so many poor and white, are so damn angry? Why they grasp at stories like these of supposed reverse discrimination? Why they are angry to be labeled racist by the media and liberals using small parts of their organization edited and taken out of context?

I am not one, so I don't feel right speaking for them. However, little bits of information like this make me sympathize. 

Could it be they feel minimized? They feel forgotten? They feel pushed to the side? They feel disenfranchised? Judged racist?

I am sure Shirley Sherrod can share their sentiments. Angry. Disenfranchised. Labeled racist.

In the end, I wonder if we concentrated a little less on the politically correct, the surface words, and judging, and a little more on the message, we could find some common ground.

Shirley Sherrod and that white farmer seemed able to do so over twenty years ago. It seems to me some angry Tea-partiers, the NAACP, and the White House could do the same.

Judge less. Label less. Listen more.

Can We Come Together?

Image via by a.prakharevich /Flickr

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