The 1960s was a decade of buttons: a button for every cause and every march. And there were organizations of every size and shape: dozens of peace groups and civil rights groups. There were political parties of every shade: young socialists and old socialists, scholarly Marxists and slightly mad Maoist Marxists. Splinter groups and then groups who splintered those groups. And, of course, they all had a button.

My favorite button, the button I treasured most, was the button of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee. SNCC called “Snick!”

The SNCC button was simple and beautiful. A white and black hand clasped together.

SNCC was born when brave black college students sat down and refused to leave the whites-only section of a segregated Southern lunch counter. It was an electrifying act of resistance.

Soon after, I was picketing my local Woolworth’s in the Bronx pressuring them to integrate their stores.

Months later I joined SNCC at City College. SNCC participated in the Freedom Rides, bravely led voter registration drives, and was involved in the March on Washington and the Selma-Montgomery March.

I mention SNCC because of the recent attempts of Andrew Breitbart, the right-wing blogger and FOX News to smear Shirley Sherrod as a black racist.

There’s been a lot of talk lately about bullying in our schools. Well this was a case of bullying on a national scale.

You’ve probably seen the two minutes of Shirley Sherrod, the former Georgia director of Rural Development for the Department of Agriculture, speaking to an NAACP group seemingly bragging about not helping a white farmer.

While Breibart and FOX filled the blogosphere and TV airwaves with their fraudulent, doctored videotape – complete with cheering and applause that wasn’t really there – they obviously never did their homework.

They knew nothing about SNCC. If they had. they would have known that Shirley’s courageous husband, Charles Sherrod, was a SNCC leader And Shirley followed soon after.

Anyone who knows anything about the segregated South knows that the young men and women of SNCC faced death on a regular basis. Schwerner, Goodman, and Chaney were brutally murdered while working on a SNCC project in Mississippi. SNCC workers were beaten bloody and jailed in small rural towns and big Southern cities.

And all the while remaining faithful to nonviolence. Do you know how hard it is to sit or stand before an angry mob, to withstand the blow of a billy club, to be tear-gassed and somehow squelch the impulse to fight back?

Shirley and Charles Sherrod and their fellow SNCC workers lived with racism every day of their lives. They risked those lives to defeat racism. We Shall Overcome was a daily commitment, not just a song.

That Breitbart and FOX and then the mainstream media suggested that Shirley Sherrod was a racist was an act of such gall, it is staggering to contemplate. That the NAACP, the Department of Agriculture, and the Obama Administration allowed itself to even entertain the notion is a sad reflection of how little we understand our own history.

If anyone has earned our lifelong respect and gratitude it is Shirley Sherrod. She endured the murder of her father and watched as her white neighbors failed to provide justice. Yet still, she committed herself to work for the human rights of us all. It is a story about what is best in us. What Breitbart and FOX and our media did, what our government did, is a story of what is worst in us.

Shirley Sherrod knows all about standing tall in the face of bullies. And so her enemies revealed themselves to be as stupid as they were evil. Most of us who did some organizing in the Sixties quickly learned how to tell a story. So not only couldn’t Breibart and Fox break Shirley Sherrod, they couldn’t keep her from telling her story, the true story. Very soon we heard the white farmer who Shirley supposedly neglected, testify to how she, in fact, saved his farm.

There’s a great Negro spiritual about surviving the horrors of slavery: “’Buked and Scorned.” It was a song well known and sung by everyone who worked for civil rights.

I’ve been ‘buked and I’ve been scorned
I’ve been ‘buked and I’ve been scorned
I’ve been ‘buked and I’ve been scorned
Tryin’ to make this journey all alone
You may talk about me sure as you please
Talk about me sure as you please
Children, talk about me sure as you please
Your talk will never drive me down to my knees …

There’s no way a journalistic fraud like Breitbart, or the small men and women at FOX, or even the fearful folk in Washington could ever drive a woman like Shirley Sherrod to her knees.

And I’ll stand with people like Shirley Sherrod till the day I die.

The Berkshire Record, Thursday July 29, 2010. © Mickey Friedman. All rights reserved.