The Congressional Black Caucus called Wednesday afternoon for the reinstatement of USDA official Shirley Sherrod, and charged that Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack had "overreacted."
CBC chief Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., stated: "It is now apparent that Secretary Vilsack did not have all of the facts available to him and overreacted." The CBC says Sherrod was "unfairly asked to resign" without due process, and should be "reinstated immediately."
When a videotape surface that appeared to show Sherrod making racially charged remarks about a white farmer, administration officials demanded her resignation.
But Sherrod says the remarks about the incident, which occurred nearly 25 years ago, were actually an object lesson in the importance of not judging people based on race. She said the video that was initially posted on BigGovernment.com had been selectively edited, and that her remarks were taken out of context.
On Tuesday, Vilsack said he would not reconsider Sherrod's dismissal. But White House officials reportedly directed him to do so Tuesday evening. Vilsack now says he will investigate all the facts in the incident.
Lee also called Wednesday for the USDA should investigate racism in the agency. "There are many individuals still serving in the Department of Agriculture who were responsible for years of discrimination against African-American farmers," she stated.
"The basis for Ms. Sherrod’s resignation is another example of why we must not sweep race under the rug," Lee added. "Rather, we must come together as a nation and recognize that we do not live in a post-racial era and that, while difficult, we must confront these issues head on with clarity and without fear."
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