The Daily Mail has instigated a campaign against prominent black public figures who spoke about a recent protest in London. But the problem is that it took their words and used them completely out of context. The Mail made it seem as though they were condoning violence. They were not. And now other media outlets are repeating the same story.
On Friday 28 July, protesters blocked the road in Dalston, East London. They wanted answers for the death of Rashan Charles who died in police custody on Saturday 22 July. The protests escalated when people reportedly started fires and threw bottles at police.
Hackney MP Diane Abbott released a statement urging peace on the streets. But The Mail ran a headline suggesting Abbott supported rioting:
The paper also omitted reporting a similar statement by another Hackney MP, Meg Hillier:
But The Mail didn’t stop there.
All white people are racist?
Jason Osamede Okundaye is a black student at Cambridge University and head of its equality group. Okundaye sent a series of tweets in response to the protests. But in the same fashion of attacking Abbott, The Mail cherrypicked the tweets to claim that Okundaye said that ‘all white people are racist’:
Okundaye, 20, wrote to his thousands of Twitter followers: ‘ALL white people are racist. White middle class, white working class, white men, white women, white gays, white children they can ALL geddit.’
The Telegraph, The Sun, The Metro, The Mirror and The Evening Standard have all repeated the story. But Okundaye told The Tab that his tweets were taken out of context:
My tweet about all white people being racist was pulled out of context and separate to my tweets in support of the Dalston protests. My tweets on white racism had been said before, in response to people acting as if racism is exclusive to working class people.
I stated that regardless of sexuality, class, gender or age, all white people are racist i.e. not just one type of white person. And the reference to ‘geddit’ refers to my previous tweets on how all demographics of whiteness can and should be called out for their racism and how it specifically manifests in their groups e.g. white middle-class people refusing to hire Black people… or white gay men stating ‘no blacks, no asians’ on dating apps such as Grindr. The tweet was conflated with my separate tweets which supported the Dalston protests and my support of activism which seeks justice against police brutality.
In short, Okundaye was tweeting about two separate issues, which The Mail combined to appear inflammatory. Okundaye was actually saying that racism is not just prevalent among the working class. Cambridge University is now investigating Okundaye’s tweets.
People have been speaking out on social media to support Okundaye’s right to freedom of speech and to raise awareness of the Mail‘s hatchet job:
Suppressing the real issues
People have been demanding answers on Charles’s death, believing the Independent Police Complaints Commissioner (IPCC) will whitewash the issue. Charles died after he was chased by police in Dalston and wrestled to the floor. The officers involved claimed they saw him swallowing an object and feared for his safety. Charles later died.
His death has been compared to other recent deaths in custody including Edir Frederico Da Costa and Darren Cumberbatch. Costa died six days after his arrest with many believing his death occurred as a result of the use of police force. Cumberbatch also died after police contact on 19 July.
Costa, Charles and Cumberbatch were all black men and media underreporting of black deaths in custody is an issue of concern.
Through misrepresenting and cutting up statements made by members of the black community, The Mail is not only acting disingenuously, it is undermining the serious issues in question. These are issues that Abbott and Okundaye are able to put on the agenda due to their positions within elite institutions. But The Mail’s smears make them appear violent and insular – implying they have no place in those institutions and denying their voices. And the speed by which these smears have spread is truly terrifying.
– Show solidarity with Jason Osamede Okundaye by tweeting and posting support along with the hashtag #JasonOsamedeOkundaye.
– Report the Daily Mail‘s articles to the Independent Press Standards Association.
Featured image via Kerry-Anne Mendoza