Forgetting about the implications for the administration, I've been struck for some time about the apparent need among a fairly large number of Americans to pretend that racism is ancient history with which we no longer need to be concerned (at least as it pertains to racial minorities.) The fact is that Shirley Sherrod lived during the great cataclysm of the civil rights movement and paid a huge personal price for standing up against the forces that killed her father. But that wasn't the end of it. She has spent the rest of her life trying to fight other insidious forms of racism like these discriminatory loan practices that continue to this day. I suspect that somebody forgot to send her the memo that the whole thing is over and that she just needs to move on. Indeed, it's been made crystal clear that the fight isn't over. (The fact that she was targeted for statements about racial reconciliation is even more galling.)She said if someone with her history can be treated as if she had no history at all, the Obama administration risks being oblivious to real racial rot.
Sherrod’s rich and tragic 62 years makes it all the more embarrassing for Obama. Her father was murdered in 1965 by white men who were never indicted. Her younger sisters endured cross burnings for integrating schools. Her husband was a courageous civil rights worker who was beaten by an ax-handle-wielding white mob. The family home was shot into and the Sherrods lost their own farm to discriminatory loan practices. All that also makes it, in her words, “unbelievable’’ that the national NAACP at first joined the chorus condemning her.
What do you say to people who call you a racist?
Breitbart: Yes. It may be a task that’s so Herculean, but I think it’s a worthy goal to try to open up America to individuals who just so happen to have a different skin color, that they have every right and every freedom to think what they want to think. That’s my battle, it’s my goal.
Can you understand how this has been difficult for her to get caught up in that?
Breitbart: As difficult as it probably was for her, it’s been difficult for me as well, especially to hear her hurl an accusation of racism at me, when my motivation is absolutely pure and is driven by a desire for this country to move beyond its horrid racist past.
LEMON: The local civil rights organizer was a transplant from Virginia. Where he helped found the student non-violent coordinating committee. A young firebrand name Charles Sherrod.
CHARLES SHERROD, SHIRLEY SHERROD'S HUSBAND: We had no idea of the monster that we were undertaking to fight.
LEMON (on camera): Across the south. White officials were using every trick in the book to keep civil rights activists in check, to keep black voters from turning out. That helped set the stage for a violent confrontation as demonstrators began to gather here at the courthouse in downtown Newton on the day that became known as Bloody Saturday.
CHARLES SHERROD: I saw some whites coming out of the hardware store with axe handles, and they approached us and started beating us with the axe handles. They beat us down to the ground.
SHIRLEY SHERROD: And my aunt Josie, she's a little petite woman. She fell on. You know, she put her body over his and was hollering at them to stop beating Charles Sherrod because they were going to kill him.
LEMON (voice-over): But that didn't stop Sherrod from driving back roads to meet every black family in the area.
CHARLES SHERROD: I was canvassing in Baker County, knocking on the door and three or four pretty girls came to the door. They started talking about this girl, their sister, that was prettier than either one of them. I want to see this girl. So they said they got a picture. I said I want to see this picture of your sister. And I pointed at it, and I said, I'm going to marry that girl.
LEMON: He did marry Shirley. It was a love story in a land of hate. Phone threats became part of the household routine.
CHARLES SHERROD: We're going to blow up your head up, you better be at your house. We're going to burn you down. We're going to do this. We're going to do the other. It was just the regular nigga, nigga, nigga.
GRACE MILLER: I would just tell them to be careful because I knew they were determined. And I just tell them to be careful. My heart would just bleed while them going home because I didn't know whether they would make it there or not.
MILLER JONES: She kept telling Shirley, you got to stop. But she kept pushing. She said, mother, it's going to be all right.