National Association for the Advancement of Colored People President Benjamin Todd Jealous said late Monday he was “appalled” by the actions of U.S. Department of Agriculture official Shirley Sherrod, who resigned earlier in the day after video surfaced of her speaking at an NAACP event about discriminating against a white farmer seeking government help.
Jealous also promised to look into why members of the audience at an NAACP fundraiser in Georgia this past March reacted, as shown in the video, by nodding and in some cases laughing at Sherrod’s remarks. But Jealous distanced the national NAACP from the incident.
Coming just days after the NAACP condemned racist elements inside the Tea Party movement, Sherrod’s remarks place the storied civil rights organization in an uncomfortable position.
“Racism is about the abuse of power. Sherrod had it in her position at USDA. According to her remarks, she mistreated a white farmer in need of assistance because of his race,” Jeaous said. “We are appalled by her actions, just as we are with abuses of power against farmers of color and female farmers.”
“Her actions were shameful. While she went on to explain in the story that she ultimately realized her mistake, as well as the common predicament of working people of all races, she gave no indication she had attempted to right the wrong she had done to this man,” Jealous said (read his full statement below).
In the video, which was first posted Monday on biggovernment.com, a conservative site run by Andrew Breitbart, Sherrod is shown speaking on March 27, 2010, at what is labeled as a “Freedom Fund” dinner in Georgia, though the exact location is not clear. The Daily Caller has asked the NAACP to clarify that detail.
“I was struggling with the fact that so many black people had lost their farm land, and here I was faced with having to help a white person save their land, so I didn’t give him the full force of what I could do,” Sherrod said.
“I did enough,” she said.
Sherrod said the only reason she helped the man at all was because she knew that the federal or state department of agriculture had sent him to her and “he needed to go back and report that I had tried to help him.”
“So I took him to a white lawyer,” she said. “So I figured if I take him to one of them, that his own kind would take care of him.”
Sherrod then said it was “revealed” to her, though she did not explain how, that “it’s about the poor versus those who have.”
“It’s not so much about white — it is about white and black — but it’s not, you know,” she said, failing to finish the thought. “It opened my eyes, because I took him to one of his own.”
The video, a less than three-minute excerpt of Sherrod’s remarks, ends at that point.
Jealous promised an internal probe at the NAACP to examine why audience members appeared to agree with and support Sherrod’s expressions of hostility to another person based on the color of their skin.
“The reaction from many in the audience is disturbing. We will be looking into the behavior of NAACP representatives at this local event and take any appropriate action,” Jealous said, though he sought to distance the national NAACP from any responsibility for the incident.
“We thank those who brought this to our national office’s attention, as there are hundreds of local fundraising dinners each year,” he said.
After the video of Sherrod’s remarks were posted on biggovernment.com Monday, the story was picked up by Fox News, which posted it on their website and showed the video footage on the air. A short time later Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said he had accepted Sherrod’s resignation.
“There is zero tolerance for discrimination at USDA, and I strongly condemn any act of discrimination against any person,” Vilsack said in a statement. “We have been working hard through the past 18 months to reverse the checkered civil rights history at the department and take the issue of fairness and equality very seriously.”
Here is the full statement released by the NAACP:
NAACP STATEMENT ON THE RESIGNATION OF SHIRLEY SHERROD
(BALTIMORE, MD) NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous issued the following statement today after learning of the resignation of Shirley Sherrod of the United States Department of Agriculture.
“Since our founding in 1909, the NAACP has been a multi-racial, multi-faith organization that– while generally rooted in African American communities– fights to end racial discrimination against all Americans.
We concur with US Agriculture Secretary Vilsack in accepting the resignation of Shirley Sherrod for her remarks at a local NAACP Freedom Fund banquet.
Racism is about the abuse of power. Sherrod had it in her position at USDA. According to her remarks, she mistreated a white farmer in need of assistance because of his race.
We are appalled by her actions, just as we are with abuses of power against farmers of color and female farmers.
Her actions were shameful. While she went on to explain in the story that she ultimately realized her mistake, as well as the common predicament of working people of all races, she gave no indication she had attempted to right the wrong she had done to this man.
The reaction from many in the audience is disturbing. We will be looking into the behavior of NAACP representatives at this local event and take any appropriate action.
We thank those who brought this to our national office’s attention, as there are hundreds of local fundraising dinners each year.
Sherrod’s behavior is even more intolerable in light of the US Department of Agriculture’s well documented history of denying opportunities to African American, Latino, Asian American, and Native American farmers, as well as female farmers of all races. Currently, justice for many of these farmers is being held up by Congress. We would hope all who share our outrage at Sherrod’s statements would join us in pushing for these cases to be remedied.
The NAACP will continue to advance the ideals of America and fight for freedom, justice and fairness for all Americans.”
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.