So we’re going to start with Lauren Ober writing in the 7 Days blog:
The Associated Press reported that Aldrich’s refusal to barber the patron – Dr. Darryl Fisher, of Taos, N.M. – sparked a demonstration by people who claimed his denial of service was racially motivated.
Except that… it didn’t. The piece she links doesn’t say anything at all about those of us who were at the demonstration making any claims, and there was actually a lot of fairly careful discussion about that at the demonstration itself. Most of us were very clear that we weren’t accusing the barber of racism, but were concerned about someone having developed the sense that the town was racist and trying to figure out how best to address that. But hey, why stick to the facts when you can just make stuff up as you go along, such as:
It is entirely possible that Aldrich is, in fact, a racist who didn’t want to cut Fisher’s hair because he doesn’t like people of color. If that’s the case, I best not be defending the guy. But let’s assume for the sake of argument that Aldrich is a stand-up guy who loves all people regardless of color, creed, political persuasion or sexual proclivity. Then this story makes a lot more sense.
The piece I just quoted was posted yesterday (Wednesday, November 10th) at 8:30 am. Let’s take a moment and enter the Wayback machine to go back two days to the Brattleboro Reformer, reporting on Aldrich’s own comments (since Reformer writer Jaime Cone actually talked to people involved and did some actual work here):
He also seems angry that Fisher spoke out about what happened.
“What does he have to go stirring this up for?” he said, adding that he believes black people are more racist than white people.
But yes, even though Aldrich is on record making a bigoted comment about blacks, the story “makes a lot more sense” if we just “assume for the sake of argument” otherwise.
If you think I’m done with this, you’re sadly mistaken.
Ober, not satisfied with making mocking comments about those of us attending the demonstration (“Oh, you gotta love Vermont and its knee-jerk PCness. Well done, white people, for making a fuss about something you know nothing about – black hair.”), also decides that in order to support her position, she’ll just make some stuff up:
Aldrich, like 99.9 percent of white hair stylists, doesn’t know how to cut black hair.
99.9%? So if we randomly pulled out 1,000 white hair stylists, only one of them would know how to cut black hair? Why not 99.93%? Why not 97.24%? Why 99.9% Because that’s the number you use when you are making things up out of whole cloth to express a vast majority.
That’s understandable, since he lives in Bellows Falls, a town of 3000 white people and 11 black people.
Let’s back that statistic up for a moment. The source she uses for it is here.
It’s accurate that Bellows Falls is estimated to have had around 3,000 residents in 2009. But the number of blacks listed is from ten years ago. If you’re reporting on demographics that small, you should probably, for accuracy’s sake, indicate the age of your numbers. But I will give her credit for not just making the number up. It’s true that in y2k, the census did report 11 black people in Bellows Falls. I just don’t know that that number is quite so accurate in 2010 and would think it would be useful to include the fact.
If at this point, you think I’m being picky, you’re right. I’m annoyed at this piece which attempts to simplify and dismiss something serious and I’m particularly not fond of white people trying to pretend that racism is irrelevant, meaningless or that responses to it are just PC.
So yes, I’m being picky. I’m also doing something that Ms. Ober clearly chose not to do in this case: I’m being thorough.
It’s clear from the accumulated evidence that Aldrich doesn’t know how to cut the hair of black people and, it seems clear, that he doesn’t care to know. But that doesn’t mean that others are equally ignorant. If Ms. Ober had bothered to do some research before writing this piece she might have learned from the Brattleboro Commons (in which Allison Teague actually learned some facts about the situation before choosing to write about it):
Lori Brown, owner of Boccaccio’s hair salon in Bellows Falls, said, “We are all trained to cut any kind of hair whether you’re African American, Caucasian or Indian,” she said.
I guess that, given Lauren Ober’s statistics, that’s probably it for the state of Vermont for white stylists who know anything about black hair. But hey, she knows more about this than we do, because even though she didn’t attend the demonstration, didn’t talk to anyone involved with it, doesn’t know what actually happened, and feels comfortable just making things up out of whole cloth, she did have a black roommate in college.
So forget everything I said. I’ll just defer to her on this.