Sometimes even the news industry reports incomplete information. When the conservative Web site BigGovernment.com posted a video of U.S. Department of Agriculture employee Shirley Sherrod at an NAACP event in March 2010, she described working for a farm assistance group in 1986, and meeting with a white farmer who she said acted superior. Sherrod was immediately asked to resign after the remarks created a viral news storm.
The two and half minute clip, edited from the original 43 minute speech, was taken out of context and in totality described a critical moment in Sherrod's life that changed her views on race and power. The NAACP is the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, was founded in 1909 and is the nation's oldest and largest civil rights organization. NAACP leaders said the full speech makes clear Sherrod's words were manipulated. Hilary Shelton, director of the NAACP Washington Bureau commented, "As we dug into it, we realized that, indeed, that videotape had been maliciously edited, and, indeed, what they were presenting to us then wasn't even close to being accurate."
U.S. Agriculture Secretary, Tom Vilsack, responded to the situation by stating, "I started off by extending to her my personal and profound apologies for -- for the pain and discomfort that has been caused to her and to her family over the course of the last several days." While Ms. Sherrod has been offered her job back, she has yet to decide to accept the offer.
Much of this tension began when the NAACP condemned racist elements within the Tea Party, a conservative political group. When Sarah Palin and other Tea Party advocates protested this resolution, the clip of Ms. Sherrod was released in attempt to show that the NAACP was equally accountable.
"I don't recall ever seeing an administration make a personnel decision based on the hour-by-hour news cycle. But, in this 24/7 world, you saw the White House, the Department Agriculture react and act upon incomplete information." David Chalian
"We in the press, also, many news organizations, showed these clips before we understood the full context of these clips. We didn't see that full speech at the time. So, again, all the players, the administration, the press, in this game, if you will, took incomplete information to the public." David Chalian
"Without a doubt, Ms. Sherrod is owed an apology. I would do so, certainly, on behalf of this administration." Robert Gibbs
"Working with him made me see that it's really about those who have vs. those who don't. You know, and they could be black; they could be white; they could be Hispanic." Shirley Sherrod
1. What is racism?
2. What is bigotry and prejudice?
3. How can you tell if something you see, hear or read is racist?
4. What does it mean if something is "taken out of context"?
1. Why is it important to gather all the facts about a situation before making a decision?
2. How can journalists avoid reporting incomplete information to the public?
3. How could this situation with Shirley Sherrod and the U.S. Department of Agriculture have been avoided?
4. What is "reverse racism" and how can all forms of racism, bigotry and prejudice be abolished?