I promise there’s a food tie-in, here.
Anyone who’s been around for a while, knows that I’m a skeptic when it comes to the government and their involvement in food farming and manufacturing (ugh, that word makes me nauseous… “food manufacturing”) in the United States. Why? Because they couldn’t get “it” “right” if “it” was RIGHT… right in front of them.
I want to share with you a little story that kind of blew out of nowhere over the past few days surrounding the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Very short recap.
Shirley Sherrod, the (former) GA State Director of the USDA, gave a speech on March 27th, 2010 at a Georgia NAACP chapter function, that consisted of the following:
It isn’t necessary to watch the entire thing, but the important part is at approximately 14:00 minutes.
A very reputable outlet snipped, chopped and screwed her speech so that all you saw… was this:
As you can see, “very reputable” was sarcasm. That’s not journalism. It’s sensationalism for the sake of getting hits to your little website.
Everything else that happens… all happens in a blur. Apparently, the USDA gets wind of this clip, and immediately asks for her resignation (read: fires her.) The NAACP gets wind of the situation, and issues a press release agreeing with the USDA firing Sherrod.
Then… Sherrod starts doing interviews explaining how her comments were taken so far out of context than it sounds like a completely different speech. The white farming family, of whom she speaks in her video, even gave interviews informing the media that Sherrod saved their farm (and livelihood), and that the recent press was malicious. All of a sudden, the NAACP decides it might be time to review the actual video (of their event) and before you know it? Backpedal city. (Well, everyone except Roland Martin, apparently.)
Then, we get this:
NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous issued the following statement today after a careful investigation into the presentation of former USDA Official Shirley Sherrod.”The NAACP has a zero tolerance policy against racial discrimination, whether practiced by blacks, whites, or any other group.
The NAACP also has long championed and embraced transformation by people who have moved beyond racial bias. Most notably, we have done so for late Alabama Governor George Wallace and late US Senator Robert Byrd — each a man who had associated with and supported white supremacists and their cause before embracing civil rights for all.
With regard to the initial media coverage of the resignation of USDA Official Shirley Sherrod, we have come to the conclusion we were snookered by Fox News and Tea Party Activist Andrew Breitbart into believing she had harmed white farmers because of racial bias. –[source: NAACP Statement On The Resignation Of Shirley Sherrod]
And literally.. as I write this, Savannah Guthrie just said the White House is pressuring the USDA to offer Sherrod her job back.
I have lots of questions. For starters, the question has to be… this was about a woman’s livelihood. Her JOB. Why didn’t the USDA bother to investigate? They were too busy rushing to get her out before her little edited clip wound up “on Glenn Beck.” Good grief.
Why didn’t the NAACP bother to investigate a clip from their own event? Don’t they have enough faith in their membership to know that they wouldn’t host an affair where that kind of sentiment – the same racist sentiment that the NAACP fought against for a century – would be so well received?
The video was “discovered” by a man who affiliates with the Tea Party. The NAACP issued a resolution condemning the racism in the party. Before you know it… a Tea Party affiliate discovers this video? Why would the White House (or anyone, for that matter) so quickly back the USDA’s decision to fire Sherrod, trusting the reporting of an individual who’s clearly got a reason to shed a negative light on the NAACP and Black governmental officials?
My last question is the reason why I felt like my thoughts on this topic belonged on this blog.
If you know anything about the treatment of Black farmers – actually, if you know nothing about the treatment of Black farmers in the United States… you should know this:
Thousands of black farmers who were discriminated against by the U.S. Agriculture Department will be eligible to receive $1.25 billion in a settlement, the government said on Thursday.
The settlement of the case, known as Pigford II, is contingent on Congress approving $1.15 billion for the farmers, in addition to $100 million already provided in the Farm Bill.
For decades, black farmers said they were unjustly being denied farm loans or subjected to longer waits for loan approval because of racism, and accused the USDA of not responding to their complaints.
The original Pigford lawsuit, named after North Carolina farmer Timothy Pigford, was filed against the USDA in 1997, and settled two years later when the government compensated black farmers left out of USDA loan and assistance programs.
More than 13,000 farmers able to provide proof of their claims of discrimination were awarded $50,000 each and given debt relief in a package worth more than $1 billion. – [source: Black Farmers Win $1.25 Billion In Discrimination Lawsuit]
So, Blacks – fresh out of the civil rights movement – get land and start contributing to the sustainable food movement (before it was a sustainable food movement.) They apply to receive the same benefits and arrangements that every other farmer receives… and for “some reason” are denied.
This practice is carried on for, apparently, decades, and no one is fired. I mean, Black people feeling like someone is being racist toward them. What else is new?
A Tea Party blogger chops and screws a video clip of a Black woman’s alleged racism against a white farming family.. and she’s fired before an investigation can take place?
This can’t be life.
Sherrod’s overall message is one that I’ve learned over the course of learning about food politics in the United States – that there are demographics that affect one’s ability to prosper and flourish in this nation that extend beyond race. Wealth and class being two of them. It just so happens that many of us haven’t had the ability to overcome them. It also just so happens that many of the indivduals in power are so far removed from the rest of the population, that they still believe it’s about race. Antiquated thinking… that keeps us having to deal with antiquated issues.
In a perfect world, both Ben Jealous and Tom Vilsack (Secretary of Agriculture, responsible for the USDA) would be on their knees begging for the forgiveness of the woman they slandered. The NAACP would have a quiet seat in a very well lit room looking for its dignity (it might be next to where they “buried the ‘n-word'”.) And people would start to wonder why the USDA is so choosy in when it addresses its racism.
But for now, I’ll settle for her being offered her job back and a little more focus on Congress handing those Black farmers their darn money.
I just needed to get that off my chest. Now… on to Q&A Wednesday.