Thursday, July 29, 2010

Shirley Sherrod Tells Black Press Where America Must Go From Here

Shirley Sherrod Tells Black Press Where America Must Go From Here
by Hazel Trice Edney
NNPA News Service

WASHINGTON – Former Department of Agriculture Rural Development Director Shirley Sherrod of South West Georgia, still reeling from an assault on her job, character and civil rights record last week, told the Black Press of America that she hopes what happened to her will now help America move forward with racial healing.

Sherrod and her husband, the Rev. Charles Sherrod, a civil rights veteran who marched and organized alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., spoke in separate telephone interviews with the NNPA News Service.

Here is the conversation with Shirley Sherrod:

NNPA: How have you gotten through this? It must have been so painful knowing your family’s history and background and your husband’s history and background in civil rights.

Shirley Sherrod: It’s been the prayers of people around this country and my prayers and my family’s prayers that helped me to deal with this. But, you have to know that when you’re in the struggle, you deal with these bumps in the road. I’ve had to deal with so many difficult things through my life that it’s hard to even look at this as a crisis because I’ve had to deal with some for years.

NNPA: So, are you saying that in the context of all that you’ve had to deal with, that this is like a bump in the road?

S.S.: Well, it’s been a big bump.…But, you have to do what you’ve got to do and don’t let it get you unfocused, and just continue working.

NNPA: Is there anything new and different that the Obama Administration can do going forward pertaining to civil rights or black people that you think was revealed during your situation?

S.S.: Well, I think they’ve got to be willing to discuss the issues. I think they shouldn’t be afraid to discuss the issues because I’m a believer that if we can try to talk through things, we can probably get to a point where we can find some common ground to work from. But, if you continue to brush it under the rug and think the problem is over, it doesn’t go away, and we saw that (last) week. And I think that’s what has happened.

NNPA: Is that something that you think the White House should initiate – a discussion or forum on race?

S.S.: Well, right now I can’t say that’s where it needs to come from, but they certainly need to play a role.

NNPA: Were you disappointed at the NAACP?

S.S.: Yes ma’am. Yes ma’am. You know, yes I was. To be the brunt of their criticism – of all agencies – when you look at my work and it was the NAACP, oh my goodness. I’ve put in more years working, probably than, I don’t know how old Ben Jealous is…

NNPA: 37

S.S.: Hey, I’ve worked more years than his age. I’ve been working 45 years.

NNPA: Of course they apologized, but even with all the apologies, it’s like where do we go from here as it pertains to race in America?

S.S.: We have to discuss it. We have to make some attempt to deal with it. We can’t not deal with it. What are we leaving for our children who come along behind us? Are we setting up another hundred years of the same thing?

NNPA: Are you hurt that Andrew Breitbart has not apologized to you?

S.S.: I probably don’t need to, you know. An apology from him, what will it mean? If he said it right now, I don’t think he would mean it. I think he would just be saying it because of pressure from people.

NNPA: You said on CNN that you thought that he would want to see all black people back in slavery. In other words, you implied that you felt that he was a racist.

S.S.: I know he is. It takes a racist to be able to do what he’s doing.

NNPA: When do you plan to decide where you go from here? Have you gotten any book offers? We saw you on The View. You are really out there.

S.S.: I was telling my sister this morning that I guess everything I’ve done up to now prepared me for this. But, I wasn’t scared. I have four sisters. I told her it was just like sitting down talking to you all.

NNPA: So, how do you see the rest of your life? How has this impacted your life?

S.S.: Well, it has certainly changed because down here, people who know my work and my husband and my family, I go to the grocery store and I spend a little more time because I run into people I know and talk to. But, now that’s changed to everywhere I go. (Laughter). I’m here getting my car washed and the lady here, she is white, …just said, ‘I love you’.

NNPA: And we saw your reunion with the Spooners and that was so touching. They seem to be such a wonderful people. Do you plan to write a book about your life?

S.S.: Yes, they are. People have been telling me, who have known me for years, you need to write a book. And my standard answer has been (that) I’m working so hard that I don’t have the time that it takes to write a book. But, I’ve had text messages and I even got a FedEx yesterday from someone offering to write the book, the story. And I think I do need to do that. Yes.

NNPA: Is there anything that you would want to say that I didn’t ask about this moment to Black America moving forward?

S.S.: I’ve never wanted the limelight. That’s just not me. But, if the things that have happened to me this week really help move us – those of us who live in this country – to a better place where we can try to deal with the racial issues, the issues of love and togetherness, then I feel that everything that I’ve been through is worth it.

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