Nearly a year after Shirley Sherrod was ousted from her job at the U.S. Department of Agriculture for an Internet video that misleadingly depicted her making racist remarks, the department is reaching out to the ex-employee to get her help on a special minority outreach program.
According to the Associated Press, the USDA met with Sherrod to discuss her participation in a new project that aims to improve relations between the department and minority farmers and ranchers. She explained that while details of the project were being discussed, nothing has been finalized.
“We really haven’t gone into any deep conversations yet,” Sherrod told the AP. “If there’s something I can do to help with the problem of discrimination within the USDA and see how I can do that, then I’m open to looking at it.”
Despite Sherrod’s reserve on the matter, a spokesman for the agriculture department told POLITICO newspaper that the project will be led by three organizations including Sherrod’s Southwest Georgia Project, the Intertribal Agriculture Council and the National Latino Farmers & Ranchers Trade Association.
The groups will target minority farmers in the Southwest, Southeast and Native American reservations.
“ are part of our continued effort to build a new civil rights era,” Justin DeJong, USDA spokesman told POLITICO. Sherrod’s employment with the department will be on a contractual basis.
The outreach project arrives shortly after the release of a government-commissioned study led by USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack. The report, which was commissioned a year before Sherrod’s dismissal, examines decades of discrimination claims from Blacks, Latinos, Native Americans and women.
Last July, Sherrod made national headlines after conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart posted a video of her speaking at an NAACP event. While Sherrod discussed how she overcame initial racist feelings against a White farmer who was trying to prevent his farm from foreclosure in actuality, Breitbart edited the video and purposely omitted Sherrod’s confession of her mistake.
Sherrod was asked to resign from her position as the Georgia director of rural development, but was requested to come back after the truth was revealed. Though she received apologies from Vilsack and President Obama, she declined the offer.
The ex-employee later hit Breitbart with a $13 million defamation lawsuit and he in turn, filed a motion for its dismissal. The case is currently pending in federal court.