Numbers Kill Our Stories

Sometimes I believe that there is no such thing as data. Numbers don’t exist. They’re nothing but concepts created to order, place, control, manipulate, skew, draw upon, organize, separate, divide, multiply, add, subtract, genocide, rape, mutilate. My blood is quantifiably, identifiably, numerically, divisibly, historically worth more than black blood. At least 2/5 more at one time according to our constitution. And saying that makes me a denier of numbers, someone who doesn’t understand variables and controls, who skews statistics.

And I would say that statistics wring out the blood of our history. The stories are washed out. How do legal definitions that contribute to chart and statistical adjustments of police involved shootings tell the story of systematic real estate racial steering, job discrimination, historical segregation, the trauma of historically being considered 3/5 of a person? It doesn’t. It can’t. Numbers cut out and incise the stories of injustice that can’t be seen on charts and graphs. They are told to our children through stories. Stories that came out in songs of lament from hunching over cotton and tobacco. Stories and songs that are clapped and danced in the church. Numbers and data can’t touch the songs of ancestors.

This is the story that numbers can’t tell:


But they try:

Screen Shot 2016-07-08 at 6.37.52 AMScreen Shot 2016-07-08 at 6.38.11 AMScreen Shot 2016-07-08 at 6.36.06 AM.pngScreen Shot 2016-07-08 at 6.38.28 AM

(Images and data from Cop In The Hood.)

What are the controls? The adjustments? Where is the skewing? What are the variables?

And the story is lost. The history is gone. Where is the blood? Where is the story?

And so. It’s unpopular. Ignorant. Unintelligent. It’s anti-colonial and anti-western but I don’t believe in or trust numbers.

I believe in stories. The stories of our people. I listen to and believe them before all else. In order to understand the tears, the anger, the fear, the mothers who have to tell their sons to be wary of the police we have to stop and listen to the stories. If they aren’t your stories then please, please stop talking. Drop the numbers. Stop trying to impose your white, western logic on people where the logic denies them their humanity. The logic that has worked to take their humanity away. At one time, science and data and numbers said that blackness likened people to animals and beasts. Your logic has historically worked to oppress and suppress and strip away dignity. So stop and listen to the stories. You’ll learn more than you ever could with incomplete data.

 

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