Commentary: What has Shirley Sherrod incident taught us?

The Columbus (Ga.) Ledger-EnquirerJuly 22, 2010 

Shirley Sherrod, as just about everybody knows by now, is the former (at least as of Wednesday afternoon) Georgia director of rural development for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. She got herself in hot water, and subsequently — if not permanently — pink-slipped when a video surfaced of remarks at an NAACP banquet. In that speech, Sherrod acknowledged that she had deliberately given less than her best effort to a white farmer who came to her for help when she worked for a nonprofit more than 20 years ago.

So far, it's hard to find anybody or any institution connected to this incident whose image has been enhanced by it.

Not Sherrod herself, who despite growing evidence that her intent was to publicly confess a past wrong in order to make a larger point, is still guilty of having let race affect her professional judgment and performance.

Not the NAACP, which first took what its leadership thought was a principled stand in calling for her ouster, and then reversed itself, saying members had been "snookered."

Not Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who first demanded Sherrod's resignation, and later said he would "conduct a thorough review and consider additional facts." Shouldn't that have been the first response?

Certainly not, the conservative website famous for exposing abuses at ACORN. The site posted a three-minute snippet of a 40-minute address that isolated Sherrod's admission of racial hostility and pointedly (as is now obvious) omitted the context.

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