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The NAACP's Appalling Attack – and Retraction – on Shirley Sherrod

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(NNPA) After hearing Minister Louis Farrakhan roundly denounced by Black and Jewish leaders in 1984, purportedly for describing Judaism as a “gutter religion,” I called Farrakhan before writing a story for the Chicago Tribune. Farrakhan denied he had ever described Judaism as a gutter religion and offered up his life to anyone who could prove he had made such a comment.

He provided me with an audio tape of the speech in question. Listening very closely, I realized that the Nation of Islam leader had called Judaism a “dirty religion,” not a gutter religion as had been widely reported. Of course, that didn’t make Jews feel any better.

Still, if you’re going to attack someone, at least get the facts straight. And that’s exactly what NAACP President Benjamin Jealous failed to do before unfairly criticizing Shirley Sherrod, who was fired by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack on the basis of a doctored tape of one of her speeches. Jealous didn’t merely join the parade of misinformed critics, he volunteered to serve as drum major.

Before listening to Sherrod’s remarks or contacting her to see if reports about her speech were accurate, Jealous issued a strongly-worded statement denouncing Sherrod, the wife of legendary SNCC organizer Charles Sherrod. The statement was initially posted on the NAACP’s website, but later removed. However, I have a copy of the original statement because it was e-mailed to me and other journalists.

In the statement, distributed to reporters shortly before midnight on July 19, Jealous said: “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.”

Jealous’ appalling comments didn’t stop there.

“Her actions were shameful,” he continued. “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.”

If Jealous had viewed the videotape of the speech before commenting, he wouldn’t have made such a fool of himself and the NAACP. When Jealous did get around to seeing the tape, he issued another statement on July 20 saying Sherrod had been “unfairly maligned.” He stated, “…We have come to the conclusion we were snookered by Fox News and Tea Party Activist Andrew Breitbart into believing she had harmed white farmers because of racial bias.”

The NAACP was duped by Fox News and the Tea Party? That’s a sad commentary on the NAACP and the state of Black leadership. How could the nation’s oldest civil rights organization allow itself to be “snookered” by its avowed enemies? And if the president of the NAACP is that gullible, what else he has been snookered on?

Although he didn’t acknowledge that he was snookered, Secretary Vilsack offered to re-hire Sherrod, who has yet to decide whether she wants to return.

In her speech to the Douglas, Ga. NAACP 24 years ago, long before she became head of the Department of Agriculture’s rural development office in Georgia, Sherrod recalled the death of her father.

“It was 45 years ago today that my father’s funeral was held,” she said. “I was a young girl at the age of 17 when my father was murdered by a White man in Baker County. In Baker County, the murder of Black people occurred periodically and in every case the White men who murdered them were never punished. It was no different in my father’s case. There were three witnesses to his murder but the grand jury refused to indict the White man who murdered him.”

Working for a non-profit group that aided farmers, Sherrod stated, “You know, for the first time I was faced with having to help a White farmer save his farm. He took a long time talking but he was trying to show me he was superior. I knew what he was doing but he had come to me for help. What he didn’t know, while he was taking all that time trying to show me he was superior to me, was I was trying to decide just how much help I was going to give him.”

In interviews with reporters, Roger and Eloise Spooner, the White couple at the center of the controversy, said Sherrod gave them enough help in the mid-1980s to save their family farm.

The point of Sherrod’s story was that she – like Whites – needed to move beyond racial prejudice.

She said, “...Working with him made me see that it’s really about those who have versus those who don’t, you know, and they could be Black, they could be White, they could be Hispanic. And it made me realize then that I needed to work to help poor people, those who don’t have access the way others have.”

Ben Jealous says the next time he is presented with information from right-wingers, “We will consider the source and be more deliberate in responding.” It’s appalling that he wasn’t doing that all along.

George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine and the NNPA News Service, is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. He can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge.

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+1 # Guest 2010-08-05 05:43
Interesting blog posts on the Root revealing Mr Curry's true motive for his two Years  of attacks on the NAACP leader which included insertions that Bond hired him due to his lightbskin color. How backwards is that.   

He is not alone, for there were others who used the Sherrod debacle to dress their petty personal past grievances:  one ex. - Farley who falsely accused a Vanderbilt president of racism due to not being defended for opposing a confederate statue. He  then accused the 
NAACP of not defending him .  His blogs, such as "The Return of the Mulatto; The Green Eyed Monster", began in jest, and have been relentless.

Others with old personal beefs include Ellison, Faye Anderson, Gina, Amy  . (the last two completely non credible )

Why not move on, as Sherrod did?
  Dr. King would not approve of where you've evolved,   Mr Curry.  It's embarrassing and disappointing.
0 # Guest 2010-08-03 14:44
i can't belive you put Minister Farrakhan's name on your little story and repeated a demonic lie? How the Heck could you? Who paid you for that? did you get a special favor for that sir? You should have the courage to accept a man's explaination for what he meant by his words. "HE DOESN"T HAVE TO LIE TO YOU" He never said (Judaism is a Dirty religion" He never said that please I ask you (for your own self respect as a journalist) admit it. You may have assumed he was talking about Judaism because of your own ignorance about the practices of the so called Jewish people. They have the Torah which is Judaism. But many of them also follow the Talmud and Mosaic Law which puts money over everything and hates Jesus Christ (that is the dirt).
0 # Guest 2010-08-01 05:10
Mr. Curry you should be ashamed of your misrepresentation of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan. He never called Judaism a dirty religion or gutter religion. We still have the tape today. As you know he was talking about the policies of Israel toward the Palestinians. When he said, "Israel has not had any peace in 40 years and she will never have any peace for there can be no peace structured on lying, murder, and injustice, using the name of Allah (God) as a shield for your dirty religion."

Israel does not have an official state religion.
+3 # Guest 2010-07-30 14:17
You have to admit, out of all this debacle there was a lot accomplished. The NAACP and President Ben Jealous outed the racist elements of the TParty long requested by AA and Dem bloggers.

It was necessary, because If the extreme right reclaim power come midterm elections you can kiss any possibility of an economic recovery goodbye.

Ms Sherrod forgave the NAACP, USDA, and President Obama. She requested we move on. Let's lick our wounds, learn from purr mistakes, and fight the good fight . . . Together.
+1 # Guest 2010-07-30 00:38
Good piece. My problem with it is how could brother Curry after recieving a copy of Min. Farrakhan's remarks still misrepresent what the good Minister actually said. In a letter to Jude Wininiski Min Farrakhan repeated what he actually said: "Regarding the state of Israel, I said in 1984, "Israel has not had any peace in 40 years and she will never have any peace for there can be no peace structured on lying, murder, and injustice, using the name of Allah (God) as a shield for your dirty religion."

Clearly the Minister called the state of Israel's unlawful practices, not Judaism, a dirty religion.
+1 # Guest 2010-07-29 06:23
Why the stab at Minister Farrakhan? It smacks of real ignorance. The importance of the Minister's distinction was that the NOI has ALWAYS taught of the "dirtying" of ALL the world's religions with the corrupting ISMs of its societies. The pure word of GOD can never be from the "gutter," but it CAN be dirtied by corrupt practitioners--as anyone can easily see. He has said MANY times that Christianity, Judaism, and Islam have been DIRTIED in this way. Why doesn't George Curry respond to the books and lectures The Minister put out last month which forcefully correct the mythological (dirtied) Black-Jewish relationship? Is this the kind of spineless journalism the civil rights movement produced?
+2 # Guest 2010-07-29 03:57
While it is good he tried to do due delligence as a journalist, the above comment missed the mark on Minister Farrakhan's 1984 comment. In the speech in question, which I heard as well, Minister Farrakhan NEVER called Judaism a "gutter" or "dirty" religion. Plain and simple!

It's really not complex. Pleaes read Minister Farrakhan's words for your self @ http://bit.ly/cvmJvD

What I do agree with Mr. Curry is the neccessity for fact checking as opposed to relying on habitually deceptive pseudo journalists such as Andrew Breitbart. The NAACP should have known and acted better and even now should stop making lame excuses and shirking responsibility for making an obvious error.
0 # Guest 2010-07-29 03:56
Mr. Curry wrote: >>> I realized that the Nation of Islam leader had called Judaism a “dirty religion,” not a gutter religion as had been widely reported.

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