A few weeks ago, Eli Holder and I were invited to appear on the Policy Viz Podcast with Jon Schwabish. We were following up on our article on why it’s important to consider how you’re presenting data as much as what data you present. Here are three takeaways from that conversation.
Data use and data presentation should be rooted in your organizations mission, vision, and values. Data is never neutral. Just like you consider what language you use and how you treat people in the organization, you need to make deliberate decisions about how you present data and what conversations the data will support.
It’s not enough for your data not to be racist — it needs to be anti-racist. Remember that your reader has ingested and absorbed a lot of messaging before they got to your piece of data. Those stories become the go-to. So where your messaging is silent, you leave spaces for untrue, inaccurate, or stereotyping ideas. How you present data will need to be actively anti-racist to avoid inadvertently supporting those messages.
We can’t tell you what to do. Sometimes one visualization is going to be better, sometimes something else will be better. Visualizations that encourage the reader to see variability within groups seem to encourage more nuanced reading. But there is a lot more to think and learn about on this topic. As we learn more, we’ll do better.
You can listen to our conversation here.