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An open letter to President Obama

Dear President Obama: I write this open letter to you because this is a watershed moment for you, for your administration for African Americans and for this country. The watershed moment was created by the termination of Shirley Sherrod, whom you and most Americans know well.

I use the term watershed advisedly. As you well know, a watershed is that divide that causes water to run in the opposite direction. I only explain this because this is an open letter and others may not understand it as well.

The Shirley Sherrod termination is such a divide. I am writing an open letter because I am afraid that if I wrote a “closed letter,” it would never get to you. I write because I am greatly concerned about your administration.

These are not just my concerns but are widespread and deeply rooted. The Shirley Sherrod termination just crystallized these concerns for me and many many others.

Let me say up front that I know Shirley Sherrod personally.  I have known her for nearly 40 years. My wife, Faya Rose Toure, (also known as Rose Mary Sanders) represented her and others against USDA in a Black Farmers lawsuit. But I do not write because I know Shirley Sherrod or because I am just concerned about her. I write mostly because I am concerned about you and your administration.

Your administration terminated Shirley Sherrod unjustly. It leaped to terminate her without fairness or justice.

There was no benefit of the doubt provided her even though she was investigated extensively before she was placed in this position.

Your people had to know her extensive commitment to helping all people, black, white and other. Even when your administration learned that it terminated her unjustly, it refused to correct the injustice.

That’s a doubly wrong. Not only does two wrongs not make a right, it multiples the wrong. President Obama, you must reinstate Shirley Sherrod immediately.  If you do not, the ramifications could be great.

The benefits of the doubt have flowed from African Americans like free flowing waters.  They have flowed when we had great doubts.  They have flowed when others ceased to give you the benefit doubt and still other never gave you that benefit.

But the time has come when that doubt may flow in the opposite direction.  The least African Americans expect from you is fairness and justice.

We have received neither in the matter of Shirley Sherrod even though you could correct this injustice with two words: “reinstate her.” That’s why this is a watershed moment.

President Obama, you have done great things. You stopped the country from the head-long rush off the economic cliff. You led the way to national health care, something presidents have been trying to achieve for over 100 years.

You saved the American auto industry from extinction. You prevented the whole financial system from a meltdown.

You helped enact much needed financial reforms to prevent another melt down. You made BP set aside $20 billion so hurting folks would not have to wait for help for years. There are so many other things.

In spite of these accomplishments, this termination of Shirley Sherrod is a watershed moment for you.

African Americans have been feeling taken for granted for some time even as we gave you the unfettered benefit of the doubt. I have talked with congresspersons who felt this way. I have talked with leaders at all levels of government who felt this way.

I have talked with average persons in all walks of life who felt this way.  Somehow, the Shirley Sherrod termination has brought concreteness to these generalized feelings.

You must act now or the benefit of doubt may flow in the opposite direction. This is a watershed moment.

I appreciate you. I want the best for you, your administration and this country. Please seize this moment or it may seize you.

Hank Sanders is a state senator representing Dallas County.