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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

We Need Shirley Sherrod's Memoir.....

Shirley Sherrod Gets a White House Apology, Deserves a Book Contract

Melinda Henneberger

Editor in Chief



Shirley Sherrod, I will read your memoir!

Most of us had never heard of Sherrod until she was wrongly accused of racism and lost her USDA job over misleading video snippets publicized by the conservative Internet publisher Andrew Breitbart.

Proving once again that the camera can too lie, what we saw on the tape made it look like this African-American civil servant had withheld help from a white farmer it was her job to assist back in 1986. The whole tape showed that's not remotely what happened, though, and the farmer vigorously defended her: "We probably wouldn't have [our farm] today if it hadn't been for her leading us in the right direction," Eloise Spooner told CNN. "I wish she could get her job back because she was good to us, I tell you."

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs apologized to Sherrod during Wednesday's briefing. "Members of this administration, members of the media, members of different political factions on both sides of this have all made determinations and judgments without a full set of facts," he said in explaining what happened.

"I can't speak for everybody involved, but I think we live in a culture [where] things whip around," he continued. "People want fast responses, we want to give fast responses, and I don't think there's any doubt that if we look at this, one of the great lessons we take away from this is to ask all of the questions first and to come to that full understanding."

[Update: Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack offered an even fuller apology at a late afternoon press conference, and said he has offered Sherrod a better job than the one she lost -- an offer she is apparently mulling. "I asked for Shirley's forgiveness and she has been gracious enough to give it to me,'' he said. "I did not think before I acted...This woman has been through hell."]

So all's well? Hardly, and I'm not quite ready to write Breitbart a thank-you note for bringing Sherrod to our attention. But rehired or retired, it looks like we could all learn something at the knee of this woman.

As we now know, she said absolutely nothing wrong in a March speech about an impulse she'd checked, a temptation she'd resisted, an experience she'd learned from 24 years earlier, as even the man who started all the mischief now admits.

"I feel bad they made this about her,'' Breitbart told MSNBC. (Who is this they you speak of, cowboy? And here I thought conservatives were all about personal responsibility. And in theory opposed the thought police.) On Hannity, he said he was looking for payback after the NAACP accused Tea Partiers of racism.

But I'm in awe of what Sherrod did right, not only in overcoming what haters did to her father, who was murdered by the KKK, but in having the humility to admit to her worst race-based impulses, which every one of us has. After this wrong has been righted, as it surely to goodness will be, I'd still like to hear a lot more about this woman, who even at the height of the craziness was cool as you please on television, calmly stating that she did wish the NAACP had checked with her before issuing a condemnation.

How about giving her whole life story a hearing? I, for one, am ready to pre-order on Amazon.

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