Thursday, July 22, 2010
Go Shirley Go!
The controversy surrounding Shirley Sherrod's forced resignation with the USDA is shocking. The racialized context has gone viral throughout all media sources. However, the entire episode is regrettable and was preventable. All parties involved - the conservative blogger Beitbart, the sensationalist Fox News reports of the "story," the pressure and support to resign from high-level officials in the White House and the USDA, and the NAACP's rush to judgment - should recognize the real lesson learned: in today's media climate, the rush to be the first headline often conflicts with our Constitutional ideals. Sherrod deserved a fair chance and the due process of investigation of the decades-old video, prior to being pressured to resign. However, that did not happen because everyone - including Obama's appointees presumably charged with protecting the President's image at all costs - went overboard in their duties. In the end, the result is that Sherrod has been slandered throughout the national media and all parties involved (except Fox News and Beitbart) have publicly apologized, thus, raising questions of their own credibility. Is the goal of re-election, moderate, mainstream politics more important than giving government employees a fair shake when accused of such an offense? Surely, we are a better country than that. Surely we elected someone at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave who proclaimed in his candidacy speech on February 10, 2007, that "that kind of politics is over." While Sherrod has been offered a new position with the USDA, ironically in its civil rights division, she deserves much more than the opportunity to continue to do what she's always done: respectfully do her job. Sherrod deserves a high profile position where she can make significant contributions to government actions. Perhaps her best role would be as the conscience of political actors who have trouble doing the right thing.