Racism is often just below the surface in our society. A black woman admits that she felt some antipathy toward a white farmer. She learned from her own racism and grew from it. Yet, her story is used to fan the flames of white fear. See story. Shirley Sherrod discussed her first case working with a white farmer when she worked for a non-profit agency assisting poor farmers. It was some 20 years ago. She explained how she learned from her initial reaction and grew as a person. But, a conservative website posted a video of her talk, excised the part about learning from her initial mistake and claimed the then USDA employee was biased against white farmers. The NAACP condemned her supposed remarks, taken out of context. Ms. Sherrod was then fired. The USDA said it has zero tolerance for racism.
Now, the USDA, realizing it mis-understood her remarks, will apparently ask her to come back. The NAACP has also apologized. Yes, it does pay to take the time to listen to the whole context, not just a few snippets. In any event, Ms. Sherrod is not sure she would want to go back to the USDA. That would be a pity. Few of us, perhaps none, are truly free of bias and prejudice. We need more public servants who recognize their weaknesses and learn from them.
Ironically, her talk was at a NAACP banquet in Georgia last March discussing racism. Her father was killed by white men in rural Georgia in 1965. In her entire talk, she discusses how she had planned to leave Georgia after his death. But, she stayed and committed herself to helping blacks. But, she concluded, God will put things in your path to teach you and you learn that your real commitment is to poor people, white or black.
We all have a journey in life. I think we need a few more like Shirley Sherrod in public service.