The Importance of Objectivity

Objectivity:  expressing or dealing with facts or conditions as perceived without distortion by personal feelings, prejudices, or interpretations.Merriam-Webster

Fellow Pollyanna’s are hard to come by these days. Objective thinkers who are willing to look for the good in people and examine the “what if”, or the “if X than Y”  of a situation, free from personal opinion and emotion. The human animal is primarily ruled by emotion over reason; so much so that perception is often distorted into fact. 

I talked in a previous post about my feelings on fairness, equality and impartiality. Fairness: being free from prejudice and self-interest. Equality: recognizing every individual as being equal under the law, both natural and man-made. Impartiality: setting aside personal bias and keeping an open mind. I also talked in my last post about the words “I’m sorry” and “accountability” disappearing from the English language. I would like refer back to both of those posts, because all of these things have been lost recently on account of one topic:  a perceived incident of racism.

Yes, I said perceived and in the name of impartiality and Pollyanna’s everywhere, I stand by it. I’ve endured quite a bit of flack on Twitter for presenting a Pollyanna angle on the Wayne Simmonds incident, hoping (not unlike the player himself) that it wasn’t racially motivated and perhaps the banana tosser would come forward and say “I’m sorry”.  Thinking with the Pollyanna mindset does not in any way mean I don’t have my doubts as to the intention behind the act, because I do, and therein lies the overall point of this post.

If there is room for  any sort of doubt in my mind as to a person’s guilt or innocence, I have a hard time playing judge and jury. I have experienced and witnessed racism first hand.  In my ‘Welcome‘ post I tell you that I have a story, and that is one fraction of it.  I have endured slurs, bullying and violence because of the friend I chose as a child, and the colour of her skin.  We fought back with our words, with education and often times, with humour.  And it made us stronger, more compassionate and more tolerant.

I have my doubts based on my emotions and personal experience, but I still have to ask: where and what are the facts in this case? I have seen very few.  What we know: two bananas (or were they peels?) were thrown on the ice at two different times, while the same player was on the ice. No slur or statement is heard on the video which shows one of the two tosses, which would confirm the act had racial intent. There is no statement from the tosser or anyone who knows him that would suggest he is a racist. In fact, the statements from ‘friends of friends’ to the contrary suggest that it was a dumb, drunken act and was against the player, not his race.

The perception of it being an act of racism is based on the emotion of those who witnessed the event, and who later relayed the story to the world. Their opinion, and now the opinion of much of the public, is formed solely on the fact that it was a banana thrown at a black player.  A player who has stated himself he wasn’t 100% sure of the intent. If it was a white player this debate would not exist.That is a given.

Honestly, is that enough evidence to charge, convict and publicly flog the person responsible as being a vile racist that we must expose and destroy? Not in my opinion, and I know – thankfully – I am not alone. Why I am thankful for that knowledge and not quick to play judge and jury comes down to this:

Last week in the United States, the night before the banana tossing incident at the JLC, a man named Troy Davis was executed in the state of Georgia.  This came after several years of appeals and several “eyewitnesses” rescinded their testimony stating police coercion as the reason. Reasonable doubt should have saved him from execution, but at the eleventh hour, the U.S. Supreme Court decided his appeal would not be heard any further. A potentially innocent man died that night. Meanwhile, on the same day, in the same state, a confessed killer was granted clemency and his sentence was commuted from death to life in prison.

If you are not angered – nay, outraged – by what I have just told you, then there is no hope that my post will help you see objectively, now or in the future. While different in the severity of their crimes, both men, Troy Davis and the JLC Banana Tosser, are victims of being denied “the benefit of the doubt”.  Both have been convicted without a fair review of the facts. As a good friend so succinctly put it, “The court of public opinion has one harsh bitch as a judge.”

It has been my opinion since the beginning that the incident – whether racist in it’s intent or a result of dumb drunkenness – was wrong, and if the culprit had any decency or morals an apology should have been forthcoming.  We could debate all day over the intent and implications, but without the facts to support it there is no right or wrong answer, and the debate will continue in circles. Where does it end?

Racist or drunken, the perpetrator has to live with that demon. We have done our part to show the world that while one person’s actions can be perceived as being so negative and hateful, it is not reflective of the status quo.  Every person who has felt emotion and anger over this should pat themselves on the back for having a heart and a conscious. But in my opinion, it’s time to let it go, and I don’t think Wayne Simmonds would disagree.

Anger and hatred breed rapidly, especially when fed. Seek out the positive and let it breed instead.  Be objective in your thinking and fair in your judgement, and accept that maybe – just maybe – this incident had no racial intent.  Perception does not equate to fact. Be responsible in your judgement, because judging in the absence of fact may do more harm, where you think you are doing good.

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