October 22, 2016
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Sherrod Incident Opportunity For Racial Healing

WASHINGTON -- The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law stands in support of Shirley Sherrod, former Georgia Director of Rural Development for the USDA, who was unfairly depicted as a racist based on a distorted video clip of a March 27th NAACP speech.  The ensuing series of events which resulted with public apologies from the Obama Administration and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to Ms. Sherrod on July 21st serves as yet another teachable moment to help our nation deal with its long history of racial tensions while also dealing with issues of wrongful termination and due process.
“As an organization established by President John F. Kennedy in 1963 to mobilize the private bar in the vigorous enforcement of the nation’s civil rights laws, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law maintains an ongoing commitment to ensure racial justice and equality for all Americans,” said Lawyers’ Committee Executive Director Barbara Arnwine.  “As Mr. Vilsack indicated, there are thousands of civil rights claims against the USDA.  The Lawyers’ Committee has long supported redress from racial discrimination against African American farmers and continues to seek justice for those not yet paid pursuant to the Pigford case in which Ms. Sherrod was a complainant.  We have also supported the objectives for similar claims of Latinos, Native Americans and women.”
“Furthermore, from an employment perspective,” Ms. Arnwine continued, “it is incumbent upon any employer made aware of an alleged racial incident to conduct a thorough investigation. Due process is fundamental to equal justice.”
“Ms. Sherrod has a remarkable background, skills and talents and should be embraced as a shero for her courageousness in turning her personal experience into lessons for the entire American public to appreciate our commonalities and to embrace equity for all poor people.  We call for her full compensation and hope that Ms. Sherrod will return to the USDA in a major position to direct critical policy to help thousands of small, poor and minority farmers in need of assistance,” added Ms. Arnwine. 
“Unfortunately, this matter was precipitated by misguided reactions to the NAACP’s vital resolution regarding the need for the Tea Party to reject any expression of racism in its ranks.  Nevertheless, issues of race must not be sensationalized in a “24/7” news environment, but instead requires the highest level of professionalism and journalistic integrity in making sure that news coverage is fair and balanced. We hope that the entire Obama Administration, the media and the public will learn from this episode. We all must recognize continued racial shortcomings in our society and work towards healing.  It is critical that lessons from this incident have a long-term and positive impact and not be treated as a passing storm.”
About the Lawyers’ Committee
The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (LCCRUL), a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, was formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to involve the private bar in providing legal services to address racial discrimination. The principal mission of the Lawyers’ Committee is to secure, through the rule of law, equal justice under law, particularly in the areas of fair housing and fair lending, community development, employment discrimination, voting, education and environmental justice. For more information about the LCCRUL, visit www.lawyerscommittee.org


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