December 13, 2010


Sherrod talks diversity, relationships

Sherrod was forced to resign from her post with the U.S. Department of Agriculture after remarks on struggles with racism and past emotions were taken out of context.

"If I were speaking to another NAACP group or any other group, I would tell the story the same way," Sherrod said. "I'd do exactly what I was doing on that night in March earlier this year. I get the attention of the people there by weaving the story and then saying: 'Hey, if I can move from that point, come on and go there with me.'"

Sherrod received apologies and was also offered another position at the USDA, which she declined.

The controversy from earlier this year, according to Sherrod, shows a need to research and "get to know people" before passing judgment.

"I'm a firm believer that if we talk to each other and if we can get to the point where we can hear each other then we can talk through and deal with most misunderstandings," she added. "That's how I've operated throughout my life. That's why I'm so concerned about getting the truth out to the general public."

Thomas, a consultant on diversity issues and founder of the American Institute for Managing Diversity, described Sherrod's experience as "an eggshell situation," which requires clear decision-making. He said organizations do a good job of  "getting diversity" but there's a need for better management.

"One very critical lesson, for me, is the need for individuals and organizations to become diversity capable," said Thomas..

He said companies think managing diversity — in thought, and race — ends with peaceful coexistence but issues of utilizing talent remain.

Thomas said good diversity management is making quality decisions despite tension and it's also about teamwork.

"We need to work together," Sherrod said. "If we don't do it for ourselves we need to do it for our children, and their children and the children to come. Somewhere we need to set the right example."

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