My personal apology to Shirley Sherrod: A Teachable Moment

I would like to apologize to Shirley Sherrod. Not on behalf of this country that is so obsessed with race that we don't take the moment to look at the larger context of what a person says. Instead once we hear slightly offensive commentary we take it at face value and not look at the entirety of a person's statement or being. I don't apologize for an Obama administration that is so race sensitive that they were willing to fire a woman who did nothing wrong except for showing the true nature of humanity by learning from her past experiences and letting it shape her future. I don't apologize for the conservative media that has tried since the beginning of this presidency to use race as a prevailing factor in attempting to undermine not only the Obama agenda but Obama himself by using Jeremiah Wright, Henry Louis Gates, the New Black Panther Party, The Tea Party and now Shirley Sherrod to appeal to the inner racial stereotypes that we all tackle and fight each day. I apologize for none of these groups or people. I apologize for myself. As a person who has seen the effects of people jumping the gun and taking words and actions out of context, I should have been more keen on catching this when it occurred on Monday. Unfortunately I was not. I supported Ms. Sherrod's initial resignation much like Ben Jealous of the NAACP and many other groups, both for the advancements of all races, and those against. And for that simple moment of lapsed awareness on my part I am sorry.

I can only hope that at the end of this ordeal we as a country can learn how deeply ingrained race and racism is in our hearts, minds and actions. Even those of us who fight day in and day out to transcend the negative implications of its effect on us often times lose the battle. I believe that what Ms. Sherrod said was one of the most honest depictions of what racism can do to people at certain points in their lives. I for one have had moments where I have done and said things that was not indicative of my true feelings of and for other groups and people, but were said in anger of what I and people like myself have experienced for hundreds of years. Does that make these actions correct? Absolutely not. But have I learned from them and with time been more accepting, caring and careful of how I look at situations? Absolutely. At the end of the day I dare anyone of any race, political agenda, sexual orientation, socio-economic background, or any other demographic to tell me that they have not had similar moments. I will stand before them with complete conviction and call them liars. Because it is human nature, on a subconscious, or conscious level to have these emotions at times. It is what we do with these moments that ultimately judges our individual and collective character.

Ms. Sherrod comes from a family with a painful and historic journey. Her father was murdered by the KKK when she was young. Her husband was a founder of SNCC, one of the most important groups during the Civil Rights Movement. Ms. Sherrod herself helped obtain money for black farmers who were oppressed by the same department that she works for. Yet with all of these trying times in her life where she could simply exist in a cloud of hate for people that do not look like her, she was able to transcend that. We can all learn a valuable lesson from her, her speech to the NAACP and her subsequent actions since this issue broke last week.

Let this be a lesson to us all. Let us learn to continue to work on our own issues, with the hopes of being able to transcend the painful past of our history, while not forgetting it, but embracing what it means today. Most importantly let us learn that looking at the complete picture of things serves us all well in the end. Thank you Shirley Sherrod for all you have done and will continue to do in the advancements of all people. And for those who do not see it this way may the goodness in all humanity, find in you the good graces that you can not find in it.


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