“A picture is worth a thousand words.”
In reality, though, one picture does not depict enough information for someone to understand all aspects of a situation.
The photo above sparked a national controversy. The picture depicts a teen smirking at a Native American who is playing tribal music. The photo went viral and accusations were swiftly made by politicians and Americans across the nation.
In response to the photo, Deb Haaland, the first Native American in Congress, took to Twitter. “The students’ display of blatant hate, disrespect, and intolerance is a signal of how common decency has decayed under this administration. Heartbreaking,” Haaland said.
But as new information started to surface, a clearer picture developed. The students’ confrontation with the Native American man was not their first confrontation of the day.
The Native American man, now known to the public as Nathan Phillips, made his way into a verbal fight between a group of Black Hebrew Israelites and Catholic students from Kentucky.
He stated that his intention was to calm the tensions between the groups.
Further complicating the situation, new information hit the headlines. The Black Hebrew Israelites recorded a video of their confrontation with the students, which showed the Catholic students being verbally harassed by the group, the Israelites using racial taunts such as “Go back to Europe.”
As a result of the new information, President Donald Trump tweeted “Looking like Nick Sandman & Covington Catholic students were treated unfairly with early judgments proving out to be false – smeared by media. Not good, but making big comeback! New footage shows that media was wrong about teen’s encounter with Native American.”
Next to hit the headlines was a challenge to the validity of a claim made by Phillips, who stated that he was a Vietnam-time Marine Corps veteran.
Though Phillips never told the media that he served in Vietnam, his statements led many media outlets to include language such as “Vietnam War veteran.”
Phillips was in fact never in Vietnam. He was a part of the Marine Corps for four years, but he spent most of his time in California, not Vietnam.
Five days after the incident, more information was seen by the American people. A woman and her group of friends allegedly were harassed by the same group of boys hours before the viral photo was taken. She recorded a video of the group screaming “build that wall” and “MAGA.” It is not clear that these boys were the Catholic students seen in the viral photo.
“A picture is worth a thousand words”. A picture gives context to a situation, but context cannot give a full story. One picture that divided the entire country did not tell Americans the full story.
It did not tell the American people that minutes before the students of Covington Catholic were verbally harassed. The picture did not tell the American people that the students did not confront the Native American man. The picture did not tell the American people that years before Mr. Phillips was in fact not in Vietnam. And the photo did not tell the American people that the students allegedly harassed a group of women earlier.
A full story can be understood not just from one photo, but rather a collection of information that creates a full story.