Interesting times, interesting times.
Some time ago a guy called Nassim Nicholas Taleb wrote about what he called black swan events. Putting it into my own language, it’s about an event that appears to come out of nowhere and bites you on the arse. Okay, okay, he didn’t put it quite like that, he was far more elegant, but you get the picture. Post event, those impacted by the black swan rationalise why it was bound to happen and invariably say ‘we should have seen that coming.’ Black swans invariably lead to tipping points when things take a completely different direction to what existed before.
I’ve used the ‘black swan’ term myself in the past when working with those involved in an offshore incident. In the main, folk sensed something wasn’t quite right but due to operational imperatives, lack of time or resources didn’t do anything about it and carried on. Then the black swan swooped down and landed, (apparently out of nowhere), and all hell was let loose – and their arse was bitten. A tipping point was created.
Here are some figures for you: in the UK young black men are nine times more likely to be jailed than young white men; three times more likely to be tasered; six to nine times more likely to be stopped and searched by police. Oh, and whilst black people account for just three percent of the UK population, they make up 12% of the prison population.
In the US, African Americans have it even worse, the most recent killing being a case in point – George Floyd, killed on 25 May by Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin. That the current occupant of the White House has added fuel to the fire is no surprise. This is the man described by former Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow on BBC Any Questions recently, as ‘The most rancid, racist and repellant occupant of the White House in my lifetime.’ Couldn’t have put it better myself.
As for police killing black men in the US. Just put that into a web search, the numbers may not surprise you.
Now, Floyd’s killing by Chauvin was videoed. It went viral. The oxygen thief in the WH must have thought it would soon blow over. Many others in his circle would have felt the same. And this is where the black swan element comes in – it didn’t blow over. The black swan landed. A tipping point. In landing, the black swan uncorked a rage, a fury that was intense in its feeling of justice denied.
I’m reminded of a quote from former slave Frederik Douglass, (1817 – 1895): ‘Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organised conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.’
‘The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass’ published in 1845 is well worth reading. It still resonates as do many of his quotes. Look up, ‘What, to the American slave, is your Fourth of July?’ The rest of the quote is searing, to put it mildly. And justified. And relevant – to those disenfranchised by society due to the colour of their skin; their belief system; sexual orientation; race; poverty; education, and so on and so on…
This particular black swan has been circling for decades. There have been times when it appears to have landed due to the killing of a black man by the police, but it merely continued to circle. So when Officer Chauvin killed George Floyd, perhaps those who are equally rancid, racist and repellant thought nothing would come of it. How wrong they were. It landed. One can only hope that a tipping point has been created that will unleash the change that is so necessary.
The heading of this blog says it all, there is a sea of humanity with just one message – enough now, enough now. For those who believe this will blow over, I will merely quote a verse of Maya Angelou’s ’Still I rise’.
‘You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air,
J J Mitchell
‘No one left behind ’