Sunday, July 25, 2010

Racism and the Shirley Sherrod Debacle

For some reason in the United States things always have to go back to race, I’m not entirely sure why. I know that we don’t all live in peace and harmony the way we’re supposed to but it seems like regardless of race, religion or gender there is someone who is trying to keep you down and repress your voice. You would think that after electing the first African American President things could simmer down. But, this is not the case.

I see it as amazing that the 2008 Democratic Primaries came down to a woman and an African American man, and even more amazing that Barack Obama was elected into the country’s highest office. But there is a time that I think we need to move past the color of his skin and instead just focus on what he is doing as President, which is astronomically more important.

The issue of Shirley Sherrod brought this matter to light for me. The fact that Ms. Sherrod was forced to resign from office is appalling. Granted the first part of the video shown appeared to convey a racist streak, but the latter part of the video, which was not shown initially for one reason or another, shows an understanding that judging someone based on skin tone would be both unprofessional and morally repugnant.

The fact of the matter is that people are so quick to jump to conclusions of racism before all the facts have even been examined. It is so engrained in our culture and it is nearly impossible to ignore. While I would like to think we are an enlightened nation I can’t help but look to what other countries have done and feel we are not up to speed. (So many countries besides our own have had female heads of state, something this country might benefit from.)

While the underlying issue is the Sherrod escapade is race, the issue I find so disconcerting is the negligence on the part of the American journalists. As someone who has a BA in Communications with a concentration in Journalism I was taught all the basics on what to do and what not to do to get a story. If a video such as the Sherrod video surfaced, why would a journalist not do as much research as possible at find out all the details behind the video, like if there was a second half to it?

Herein lies the issue with bloggers as “citizen journalists.” No comparison can be made to a citizen journalist and a formally trained one backed by a paper or news channel. Journalists have a far greater bank of resources at their disposable, most notably money to research their stories. For this reason I can’t begin to express my disappointment at the news media who got the story so wrong that it cost a woman her job, only for the truth to come out and Sherrod to be offered her job back the following day. This shows a complete lack of responsibility on the part of journalists, specifically those “hacks” at FOX.

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