Full video vindicates Sherrod, destroys Breitbart's accusations of racism

Blog ››› ››› MATT MCLAUGHLIN

The NAACP has posted the video of Shirley Sherrod's March 27 speech, and it definitively proves false Andrew Breitbart's claim that the edited video he posted at his BigGovernment.com website is "evidence of racism."

In his first post about the video, Breitbart wrote: "In the first video, Sherrod describes how she racially discriminates against a white farmer. She describes how she is torn over how much she will choose to help him. And, she admits that she doesn't do everything she can for him, because he is white."

Media Matters previously documented that Breitbart's original post suggested that the actions Sherrod described in the video came in her capacity as the USDA Georgia Director of Rural Development during the Obama administration. In fact, the actions she described came 24 years ago, when she when she worked with the Georgia field office for the Federation of Southern Cooperative/Land Assistance Fund -- before she began working for the Agriculture Department.

And in the full video, Sherrod recounts how she ultimately helped the farmer avoid the foreclosure on his farm. Indeed, while Breitbart's video included Sherrod saying that she initially didn't to everything she could, it omitted her explanation that later she went to much greater lengths to help the farmer:

SHERROD: So, everything was going along fine -- I'm thinking he's being taken care of by the white lawyer, then they lift the injunction against USDA in May of '87 for two weeks and he was one of 13 farmers in Georgia who received a foreclosure notice. He called me. I said, well, go on and make an appointment at the lawyer. Let me know when it is and I'll meet you there.

So we met at the lawyer's office on the day they had given him. And this lawyer sat there -- he had been paying this lawyer, y'all. That's what got me. He had been paying the lawyer since November, and this was May. And the lawyer sat there and looked at him and said, "Well, y'all are getting old. Why don't you just let the farm go?" I could not believe he said that, so I said to the lawyer -- I told him, I can't believe you said that. I said: It's obvious to me that he cannot file a Chapter 12 bankruptcy to stop this foreclose, you have to file an 11. And the lawyer said to me, I'll do whatever you say -- whatever you think -- that's the way he put it. But he's paying him. He wasn't paying me any money. You know, so he said -- the lawyer said he would work on it.

And then, about seven days before that man would have been sold at the courthouse steps, the farmer called me and said the lawyer wasn't doing anything. And that's when I spent time there in my office calling everybody I could think so to try to see -- help me find the lawyer who would handle this.

She goes on to say how her encounter with the farmer "made me realize then that I needed to work to help poor people" regardless of whether they were black, white, or Hispanic.

Breitbart's video edits out any of Sherrod's remarks about the true nature of her relationship with the farmer -- who today stated that Sherrod did her "level best to help him" -- and about the true meaning of her story.

Following are Sherrod's remarks at the March 27 NAACP Freedom Fund Banquet (the section in bold is what Breitbart's video included -- the rest was omitted):

[11:50] SHERROD: I made the commitment on the night of my father's death at the age of 17 that I would not leave the South, that I would stay in the South and devote my life to working for change. And I've been true to that commitment all of these 45 years.

[...]

[16:34] SHERROD: God is good. I can tell you that. When I made that commitment, I was making that commitment to black people -- and to black people only. But you know God will show you things and he'll put things in your path so that you realize that the struggle is really about poor people --

AUDIENCE: All right. All right.

SHERROD: -- you know. 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 to me -- I knew what he was doing.

AUDIENCE: All right.

SHERROD: But he had to 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 I was going to give him. I was struggling with the fact that so many black people have lost their farmland, and here I was faced with having to help a white person save their land. So, I didn't give him the full force of what I could do. I did enough so that when he -- I assumed that the Department of Agriculture had sent him to me; either that or the Georgia Department of Agriculture -- and he needed to go back and report that I did try to help him. So I took him to a white lawyer that we had -- that had attended some of the training that we had provided 'cause Chapter 12 bankruptcy had just been enacted for the family farmer, so I figured if I'd take him to one of them, that his own kind would take care of him.

That's when it was revealed to me that y'all, it's about poor versus those who have, and not so much about white -- it is about white and black, but it's not -- you know, it opened my eyes, 'cause I took him to one of his own and I put him in his hands, and said, OK, I've done my job. But, during that time, we would have these injunctions against the Department of Agriculture and -- so, they couldn't foreclose on him. And I want you to know that the county supervisor had done something to him that I have not seen yet that they've done to any other farmer, black or white. And what they did to him caused him to not be able to file Chapter 12 bankruptcy.

So, everything was going along fine -- I'm thinking he's being taken care of by the white lawyer, then they lift the injunction against USDA in May of '87 for two weeks and he was one of 13 farmers in Georgia who received a foreclosure notice. He called me. I said, well, go on and make an appointment at the lawyer. Let me know when it is and I'll meet you there.

So we met at the lawyer's office on the day they had given him. And this lawyer sat there -- he had been paying this lawyer, y'all. That's what got me. He had been paying the lawyer since November, and this was May. And the lawyer sat there and looked at him and said, "Well, y'all are getting old. Why don't you just let the farm go?" I could not believe he said that, so I said to the lawyer -- I told him, I can't believe you said that. I said: It's obvious to me that he cannot file a Chapter 12 bankruptcy to stop this foreclose, you have to file an 11. And the lawyer said to me, I'll do whatever you say -- whatever you think -- that's the way he put it. But he's paying him. He wasn't paying me any money. You know, so he said -- the lawyer said he would work on it.

And then, about seven days before that man would have been sold at the courthouse steps, the farmer called me and said the lawyer wasn't doing anything. And that's when I spent time there in my office calling everybody I could think so to try to see -- help me find the lawyer who would handle this. And finally, I remembered that I had gone to see one just 40 miles away in Americus with the black farmers. So, I --

[VIDEO CUT*]

SHERROD: Well, working with him made me see that it's really about those who have versus those who don't.

AUDIENCE: That's right.

SHERROD: You know, and they could be black, and 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.

I want to just share something with you and I think it helps to -- you know, when I learned this, I'm like, oh, my goodness. You know, back in the late 17th and 18th century, black -- there were black indentured servants and white indentured servants, and they all would work for seven years and get their freedom. And they didn't see any difference in each other -- nobody worried about skin color. They married each other. You know, these were poor whites and poor blacks in the same boat, except they were slaves, but they were both slaves and both had their opportunity to work out on the slavery.

But then they started looking at the injustices that they faced and started then trying -- you know, the people with money -- you know, they started -- the poor whites and poor blacks -- they -- you know, they married each other. They lived together. They were just like we would be. And they started looking at what was happening to them and decided we need to do something about it -- you know, about this. Well, the people with money, the elite, decided, hey, we need to do something here to divide them.

So that's when they made black people servants for life. That's when the put laws in place forbidding them to marry each other. That's when they created the racism that we know of today. They did it to keep us divided. And they -- it started working so well, they said, gosh, looks like we've come up on something here that can last generations -- and here we are. Over 400 years later, and it's still working. What we have to do is get that out of our heads. There is no difference between us.

The only difference is that the folks with money want to stay in power and whether it's health care or whatever it is, they'll do what they need to do to keep that power.

[APPLAUSE]

[...]

[25:03] SHERROD: I couldn't say 45 years ago, I couldn't stand here and say what I'm saying -- what I will say to you tonight. Like I told, God helped me to see that its not just about black people, it's about poor people. And I've come a long way. I knew that I couldn't live with hate, you know. As my mother has said to so many, if we had tried to live with hate in our hearts, we'd probably be dead now.

But I've come to realize that we have to work together and -- you know, it's sad that we don't have a room full of white and blacks here tonight 'cause we have to overcome the divisions that we have. We have to get to the point as Tony Morrison said race exists but it doesn't matter. We have to work just as hard -- I know it's -- you know, that division is still here, but our communities are not going to thrive -- you know, our children won't have the communities that they need to be able to stay in and live in and have a good life if we can't figure this out, you all. White people, black people, Hispanic people, we all have to do our part to make our communities a safe place, a healthy place, a good environment.

* According to Jake Tapper, "NAACP says the tape was changed at the 21:00 mark. no edits, just a tape change."

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