Now, I know that Willie Nelson isn’t exactly what Gov. McQuitter would call a Tea Party American, but he is a country music luminary and he’s always been a diehard supporter of farmers in the heartland – you know, Real Americans™, in Sarah parlance. So, maybe, just maybe, Sarah might be interested in what the Red Headed Stranger has to say about the former, and perhaps to soon to be re-instated, USDA employee at the center of Andrew Breitbart’s race-baiting refuse storm. Here’s Willie on HuffPo today:
Shirley Sherrod has been a great friend to me, Farm Aid and family farmers for 25 years. She has always worked to improve economic opportunities for family farmers in the South, going back to when I first met her as the director of the Georgia Field Office for the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund. Like Ms. Sherrod herself has said, she’s always tried to help those who don't have so that they can have a little more.
The real story of Shirley Sherrod deserved to be told a long time ago. She has had an amazing impact on the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of families and communities throughout the South. Farmers of every race have struggled with the income inequities that have persisted for generations, and advocates like Ms. Sherrod have moved mountains to ensure that families can remain in their homes and on their farms.
Wow. Reading this, you’d almost think Ms. Sherrod is a Real American™, too. Is it possible that there are African Americans who plow the land, just like good old fashioned white folks? Apparently, there are:
While all family farmers in our country face an uphill battle to stay on their land, growing good food for rest of us, black farmers have lost their land at an alarming rate, faster than any other family farmers. Lending discrimination and inequities in agriculture programs are largely responsible for the shrinking number of black farmers. Farm Aid began supporting the Federation in 1985, where Shirley worked at the time, because of the group’s unique ability to reach out and help struggling farm families in the South. Many had owned their land for generations and were, and continue to be, under constant threat. We continue to support the Federation’s work to this day, and hundreds of farmers are still on their land because of Ms. Sherrod's efforts.
This country desperately needs more farm advocates with Ms. Sherrod’s expertise. But this is not just about a job – it’s about ensuring that Shirley Sherrod has the opportunity to continue to support family farmers and the rural poor, something she has spent her life doing.
So there you go. There are African Americans suffering in rural areas just like the white farmers – the Spooners – whom Shirley Sherrod didn’t discriminate against 24 years ago. Seems like Shirley Sherrod, the Once And Future USDA Employee, has been helping all sorts of folks in need, regardless of the color of their skin. Or, as they say in Downstate Illinois, disirregardless.
And speaking of Downstate Illinois, I spent the better part of six years down on the prairie in the midst of the corn belt when I was an undergraduate and law student at the University of Illinois, the home of the first Farm Aid Concert which took place in September 1985, at the start of my second year in law school. In fact, I still have friends down there. So the story of Ms. Sherrod’s honest efforts on behalf of hard working rural folks, black and white, strikes a certain chord with me. It reminds me that there are good people everywhere in this country; but it also reminds me that the problems of race permeate urban and rural America alike. And given the good work Shirley Sherrod has done not only to overcome the racial strife she faced growing up, but to come to help family farmers of all walks of life, I don’t think it’s too much to ask of the Half Term Wonder to “refudiate” Andrew Breitbart’s race-bating attack on this fine American.
Now, if you’ll excuse me – and with apologies to my co-bloggers – I feel the need to get my Steve Earle on: