Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Politics and Race in Agriculture

About a year ago, I heard a moving speech about bringing down racial barriers, and the point of the speech was that family farmers with financial problems, struggling to keep pace with large commercial agriculture - white, black, hispanic, native american, hmong, male and female - needed to look past race, past gender and work together.

The speech talked honestly about the barriers we all confront, and the speaker spoke of her own struggles to put aside her anger over discrimination. She told a story of her experience over 25 years ago in a very different southwest Georgia. An African American farmer herself, she and her family had experienced horrific discrimination at the hands of white neighbors and USDA officials. Serving as a farm advocate during the farm financial crisis of the 1980's, she was called upon to help a white farmer who she knew felt superior to her. She shared her internal struggle and the path that she took to help him and to reconcile her feelings. The story ended with her current friendship with the farmer and his family, and it merged into an uplifting story of healing and the changing times of race relations in this country.

Telling this story again, this time to an audience that included someone with a tape recorder and an apparent connection to a tea party blogger cost this person, Shirley Sherrod, her position as USDA's Georgia State Director of Rural Development.

Please take a moment to read the CBS news story announcing her resignation.


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