Shirley Sherrod spoke at the NAACP 20th Annual Freedom Fund Banquet (Courtesy DCTV and YouTube)
ALBANY, GA -- A black federal worker has stepped down from her post as Georgia's rural development director for the USDA after a video clip posted online this week showed her saying she had not helped a farmer as much as she could have because he was white.
In a statement Tuesday, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said he had accepted Shirley Sherrod's resignation. Vilsack says the Department of Agriculture has no tolerance for discrimination.
Sherrod, however, says she was forced out of her job. The Albany woman says her words were taken completely out of context and misconstrued. The video posted Monday only shows a portion of a speech she gave at a local NAACP event in March.
In it, she can be heard saying:
"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 know what he was doing, but he had to come to me for help. What he didn't know, while he was taking all that time to show me he was superior to me, was I was trying to decide just how much help I was going to give him.I was struggling with the fact that so many black people have lost their farm land, 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 the Department of Agriculture had sent him to me, either that or the Georgia Department of Agriculture -- he needed to go back and report that I had helped him. So I took him to a white lawyer that had attended some of the training we had provided because Chapter 12 bankruptcy had just been enacted for the family farm. So I figured that if I take him to one of them, that his own kindwould take care of him. That's when it was revealed to me that it's about poor versus those who have, and not so much about white. It is about white and black, but it's not. It opened my eyes because I took him to one of his own."
Sherrod says what the video doesn't show is her talking about how she overcame her own prejudices, helped the farmer and actually became friends with him later on. She says the initial incident happened decades ago and was as an example of racial reconciliation, not racism.
National NAACP President Benjamin Todd Jealous welcomed Sherrod's resignation because the group opposes racism of all kinds.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)