Thursday, August 26, 2010

No Tom Vilsack you should resign

statementI’ve just had the chance to read Tom Vilsack’s statement regarding Shirley Sherrod and the issues surrounding her resignation, and I’ve never seen such an affront to American justice in all my life.

No person so craven and unwilling to support the very principles of American democracy needs to keep a position of power in this country.

I'm jumping mad.
Yesterday, I asked for and accepted Ms. Sherrod's resignation for two reasons. First, for the past 18 months, we have been working to turn the page on the sordid civil rights record at USDA and this controversy could make it more difficult to move forward on correcting injustices. Second, state rural development directors make many decisions and are often called to use their discretion. The controversy surrounding her comments would create situations where her decisions, rightly or wrongly, would be called into question making it difficult for her to bring jobs to Georgia.

Our policy is clear. There is zero tolerance for discrimination at USDA and we strongly condemn any act of discrimination against any person. We have a duty to ensure that when we provide services to the American people we do so in an equitable manner. But equally important is our duty to instill confidence in the American people that we are fair service providers.
Link to TPM article of this cowardly response

Isn’t that just American typical. The sordid page you are speaking about is written with your agency failing to perform for non white farmers. Where is the 1.25 billion dollars owed to them is that what you were talking about? To answer that sordid history with an injustice against the first Black lady to hold a position like that is an example a spinlessness so pronounced as to bring serious doubts about this man's ability to make any decision.

His second point is even more disgusting. The idea that the leader of a vital arm of this administration would allow WRONG to color his motivations then have the nerve to actually put that out in a statement is evidence enough that he should not have this position. This is a man who just endorsed injustice. If a group thinks wrongly then he'll ask for people's resignations. That can't be acceptable.

I have to admit I don't follow agricultural issues closely enough to know if the overall policies Secretary Vilsack is working for are positive, but this episode shows he doesn't have the judgement to implement them.

Update: 3:23

Ben Jealous has come out with a new statement that is more in keeping with what he should have said in the first place. I almost called for his resignation too in this diary, but I thought I'd give him a chance to respond. Good response.

(BALTIMORE, MD) - 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 move 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.

Having reviewed the full tape, spoken to Ms. Sherrod, and most importantly heard the testimony of the white farmers mentioned in this story, we now believe the organization that edited the documents did so with the intention of deceiving millions of Americans.

The fact is Ms. Sherrod did help the white farmers mentioned in her speech. They personally credit her with helping to save their family farm.

Moreover, this incident and the lesson it prompted occurred more that 20 years before she went to work for USDA.

Finally, she was sharing this account as part of a story of transformation and redemption. In the full video, Ms.Sherrod says she realized that the dislocation of farmers is about “haves and have nots.” "It’s not just about black people, it’s about poor people," says Sherrod in the speech. “We have to get to the point where race exists but it doesn’t matter.”

This is a teachable moment, for activists and for journalists.

Most Americans agree that racism has no place in American Society. We also believe that civil and human rights have to be measured by a single yardstick.

The NAACP has demonstrated its commitment to live by that standard.

The Tea Party Federation took a step in that direction when it expelled the Tea Party Express over the weekend. Unfortunately, we have yet to hear from other leaders in the Tea Party movement like Dick Armey and Sarah Palin, who have been virtually silent on the “internal bigotry” issue.

Next time we are confronted by a racial controversy broken by Fox News or their allies in the Tea Party like Mr. Breitbart, we will consider the source and be more deliberate in responding. The tape of Ms. Sherrod’s speech at an NAACP banquet was deliberately edited to create a false impression of racial bias, and to create a controversy where none existed. This just shows the lengths to which extremist elements will go to discredit legitimate opposition.

According to the USDA, Sherrod’s statements prompted her dismissal. While we understand why Secretary Vilsack believes this false controversy will impede her ability to function in the role, we urge him to reconsider.

Finally, we hope this incident will heighten Congress’s urgency in dealing with the well documented findings of discrimination toward black, Latino, Asian American and Native American farmers, as well as female farmers of all races."


Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation's oldest and largest civil rights organization. Its members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities, conducting voter mobilization and monitoring equal opportunity in the public and private sectors.

Yeah we're cool again Ben Jealous

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