Late last night, The USDA asked Director of Rural Development in Georgia Shirley Sherrod to resign because of a video of her in which she seems to be making comments to the effect that she (at some unspecified point in history) consciously treated a white farmer differently than she would have treated a black farmer; specifically, that "I was struggling with the fact that so many black people had lost their farmland, and here I was faced with helping a white person save their land," and that "I didn't give him the full force of what I could do." The NAACP also issued a statement condemning what she said (probably because she made these comments at an NAACP event in Georgia).
All and all sounds pretty damning. But wait, this was possibly taken out of context? She says that it was, and was part of her recounting a story of how she realized back in mid-1980's that people losing their farms wasn't a black or white issue, but more a case of "haves" and "have-nots." When she made these comments, in fact, she didn't even work for the USDA. Not just this, but the wife of the farmer she was apparently referencing said that, "we probably wouldn't have (our farm) today if it hadn't been for her leading us in the right direction. I wish she could get her job back because she was good to us, I tell you."
I think that as time goes on, this picture will have its share of twists and turns and maybe we'll get to the bottom of it (the video that was released was only a small part, for example, and I think one can look forward to a longer, fuller version coming out shortly). Personally, I don't think there's enough information to come to any conclusions on the matter, so I say wait and see.
But what I like about this story is that it's a prime example of all of this speed and information access that we have through the Internet, cell phones, TV, etc., and the effect that it's had on our society. I think it's an accurate reflection of how we as a society have developed in line with faster and faster access to information. A few examples we can draw on from this:
- The video was released about a day ago (that I can find). In less than that time, Shirley Sherrod lost her job.
- In less than a day, NAACP condemned her words, retracted their statement and said USDA should rehire her, and posted the full video of what she was talking about.
- In less than 24 hours, the major news outlets had interviewed every single person possibly involved except maybe the President.
Personally, I'm bedazzled. This is a great example of the Information Age, and the influence that the media has on us. I don't believe that it's an inherently bad influence, but I will say that there are people (groups, even) that rely on this speed to others' detriment, or at the very least to their own ends.