Stop and Think: Reaction to the Shirley Sherrod Debacle

by Emily Jasper on July 21, 2010

Like many others this morning, I am writing a reaction to the giant debacle that arose because no one stopped to think. Shirley Sherrod was removed from her position with the Department of Agriculture because of a video that had comments taken out of context. Somehow, in all the uproar about racism yesterday, it took almost 24 hours for them to stop, and think.

Is this a public speech?

Why did this not cause an uproar in March when delivered?

It’s a NAACP event, why hadn’t they reacted in March?

Why now?

Any one of us who run a part of our lives online know that someone can copy/paste from your post and twist your words. We know people will cut and edit to serve their needs. Unfortunately, the people who had a hand in making decisions (and even the news promoting it) put their knowledge of the web out of their minds. The press knows more than anyone that things aren’t always what we seem. If we spend days debating the validity of the Mel Gibson recordings, why did it take so long (and a woman’s lost job and public humiliation) for someone to question the video?

Because this seemed closer to real life. This is something our minds can relate to, and we want to be first to say, “I am not a racist, point the finger at her!”

I’ve been in a position of public humiliation all because someone didn’t stop and think before reacting. It changes you. It will change Shirley.

It is only right that formal apologies continue to be made publicly. I can only hope some officials pick up the phone and call her and make personal apologies. She may not return to her job if it is available to her, and no one can blame her. The waters have changed, and it could be tough for her to navigate them. I hope other Departments embrace her, she has held up under extreme pressure.

When you encounter a situation like this, no matter which side you’re on, stop and think before reacting. You may make the right decision from the get go, or you can respond with poise.