Stories and Data.

At this early stage (forthrig.ht is currently 3 days old), 5 of the 12 posts on this website, almost 50%, concern racism. There’s nothing wrong with this of course, except the fact that my intention wasn’t really to touch on racism at all. At least not here.

Part of the reason for this is timing. The death of George Floyd is not only fresh in the global psyche, but it also seems to have taken root socially in a way we haven’t quite seen before. Being a black man, and starting a new website less than a month after his death, it was perhaps inevitable that the topic would be close to the front of my mind.

But the larger reason is that this moment, as all momentous events do, offers us an opportunity to examine how we think, how we examine our biases, and how we react, (something which I certainly did set out to touch on).

I’m increasingly concerned that we’re falling very short of the mark in this regard. Amidst the saccharine virtue signalling of celebrities, the cancelling of white people for the slightest suggestion that there is nuance to the racial issues we face, we see a growing movement more concerned with protecting a narrative of widespread police racism than discovering whether that narrative is true.

Before I fall foul of this movement myself, I’m not suggesting that there aren’t racist police officers, just as I’m not suggesting that there aren’t racist doctors, racist electricians and racist people making burgers at McDonald’s. What I am suggesting, is that if I go into a McDonald’s and receive a burger that doesn’t look like the one on the menu, it isn’t necessarily because the person making it was a racist.

All of which leads me to the point of this article. A fascinating article by Coleman Hughes which questions the narrative we’ve been fed about racism and police brutality. A few things come to mind as I read it.

Firstly, I can’t help but wonder how Coleman’s observations would have been received if he wasn’t a black man himself. It seems unimaginable that a white man would have been able to state that he “no longer believe[s] that the cops disproportionately kill unarmed black Americans” without being dismissed due to white privilege or accused of racism. The fact that the colour of someone’s skin is so central to a discussion on ending racism is…well…I’ll just leave it at that.

Secondly, I wonder why the stories of the unarmed white people killed by the police aren’t part of the global consciousness. Why don’t we know the names of Derek Cruice, or David Cassick, or six-year-old Jeremy Mardis like we know the names of Trayvon Martin or Phllando Castile or Eric Garner or George Floyd? Why isn’t the same outrage about these deaths?

Thirdly, how much damage is being done by convincing black people around the world that the police are dangerous to them, despite significant evidence that this isn’t the case? How much more likely is it that a black person, behaves aggressively or defensively when dealing with the police if they’re told that the police are out to get them? How much more likely does this understandable defensiveness or aggressiveness make it that they’ll find themselves at the wrong end of a gun?

It feels as if there’s a game being played at the moment, and that black people are the pawns. I’m grateful that people like Coleman Hughes are standing up and trying to look at the issue as clearly, accurately and calmly as possible. Because if we’re going to solve this problem, we need both stories and data.