WMP are giving me an award... why I'm accepting it

Those of you who follow me on Twitter, Facebook or Google+ will know that yesterday, I received an email from the Chairman of the West Midlands Police telling me that they would like to present me with an “Authority Award” at a ceremony in December - because of this very blog. 

A moral dilemma immediately ensued. Should I accept it or not? I immediately found valid reasons for both. As I always said, I never did this for any recognition. Given that police failings, racial profiling and the Mark Duggan situation were all a factor in the riots in the first place, would it therefore be wrong for me to accept this award? I’m a young ethnic minority in the inner city myself, I’ve been racially profiled, stopped-and-searched and accused of criminal activity myself on more than one occasion for no apparent reason. My entire life, frankly, I’ve felt like the police are not on my side. It’s a sad fact that most of us young people, especially minorities are made to feel like criminals when we aren’t. We regularly get tarred with the same brush as gang members, anti-social vandalists and criminals. I can’t speak for rioters but I do feel that many young people feel that if we’re already being treated like criminals, why shouldn’t we act like that? This is the “Me too” attitude of many of the looters/rioters that I spoke about before, where I said that most of them weren’t troublemakers but simply following the crowd.

For all my cynicism that the offering of this award might be a tokenistic PR move by the WMP - as my cousin told me, “that’s how life works”. From politics to business, so many things are done on the basis of PR. But is it really that shallow? If it isn’t - then what this means is that the police have at least acknowledged (if not accepted) the criticisms I presented to them throughout this very blog, both during and following the riots. Surely that’s a positive thing, even if there’s scope to question the motives? And in accepting the award, am I showing that it’s wrong for them (and society in general) to tar all us young people with that same brush? Am I proving a kind of legitimacy and being an example for others? It’s certainly possible, and for those reasons I am accepting it. It wasn’t an easy decision, but I believe the positives outweigh the negatives. I also hope that the ceremony will allow me the opportunity to express legitimate concerns to somebody on the inside with the power to make a difference.

Something that I care equally about is that this blog, regardless of any award, is a triumph for new media. The frankly shameful efforts of the mass media organisations are the primary reason this blog became so popular in the first place. I don’t have any bones to pick with the likes of the BBC and the Murdoch empire but I would hope that they reviewed their strategies regarding so-called “citizen journalism”, how quickly they can operate in a rapidly breaking situation/landscape, and their social media strategies. Every “old media” person I spoke to in the aftermath admitted their failings. So are the people at the top paying attention now? 

I still have so many thoughts rushing through my brain on the situation but for now at least, I’m going to end it here. I hope all of you are well and I really appreciate all the replies I got yesterday on Twitter when I was trying to decide whether I should accept the award or not.