A man's gift makes room for him, and brings him before great men (Proverbs 18:16, KJV)
The recent discovery that the video recording of Mrs. Shirley Sherrod's alleged charged racial remarks at an NAACP function was doctored by Andrew Briebart lends itself to the prevalent climate of cheating and moral dishonesty in our current culture. Briebart's attempt to consciously peddle false information to indite Mrs. Sherrod of racism speaks to the underhanded nature of Mr. Briebart which likely both stems from a culture of dishonesty and yet at the same time informs a growing number of young within our society, not least of whom fill our nation's universities and colleges. The prevalence of moral compromise in modern American society reflect both the blessing and curse of twenty-first century technological advancements. The same type of dishonesty used by Briebart was witnessed with the Jeremiah Wright firestorm which, too, was video looped out of context. Like the Wright firestorm which forced Obama (during his presidential campaign) to address the issue of race in this country, the firestorm around Sherrod, who was forced to resign from the USDA has once again forced Obama (now as President of the United States of America) to again address the issue of race.
The embarrassment and ridicule caused to Sherrod and felt by the blunderous missteps of the Obama administration and the NAACP, and the dubious self serving agenda of Briebart and the right winged extremism within the Tea Party reminds each of us of the poisonous materials that can be developed by a creative self-serving and astute technologically savvy individual. Even Bill O'Reilly apologized for responding to the dubious video. A recent New York Times article entitled Plagarism Lines Blur for Students in Digital Age (appearing in the August 2nd, 2010 edition, page A1) documents the prevalence of cheating and dishonesty within the current academic culture. In this article, persons caught plagiarizing and passing other's ideas as one's own plead ignorance, suggesting that internet forms of information are mere common knowledge.
Have we in our strides toward technological advancements become less competent, inept critical thinkers, ignorant and daft when it comes to originality? Precisely because of our information techonoligical age it has become easier for persons to cut and paste almost any type of content - video, audio or literary. Cheating, though, is no particular God given gift; to what extent have many of us traded the notion that our gifts will make room for us in exchange for immoral and dishonest ineptitude?
[Dr. Jamal-Dominique Hopkins is Scholar-in-Residence at St. Paul A.M.E. Church in Atlanta, GA and is Chair of the Biblical Studies and Languages Department and Assistant Professor of Bible at the Interdenominational Theological Center also in Atlanta. He is the author of “Ecclesiastes” in the African Bible: Reading Israel’s Scriptures through Africa and the African Diaspora (Fortress Press), 2009, and “Duty or Responsibility? The African American Evangelical’s Identity” in the Journal of African American Christian Thought 1 (2009). Hopkins is available for preaching, lecturing, speaking or conducting workshops or seminars. You may contact him at