The only real answer to race relations: Achieving a truly “Balanced Perspective” by taking the time to really UNDERSTAND before we reflexively and/or emotionally express our views and answers.
The shooting by police officers of black men in Minneapolis and Baton Rouge, followed by the ambush of five policemen in Dallas is extremely upsetting and unsettling. I am often asked very direct questions by my students:
-“Why is this happening?”
-“What needs to change?”
However, there was one student’s statement that really caught my attention:
“Professor Kraemer, I don’t understand why this is happening.”
The phrase “I don’t understand” always puts my thoughts into high gear. Through my daily self-reflection, I am constantly reminded of how critical it is to take the time to “seek to understand before you are understood”.
So let’s take the time to “seek to understand,” not just one side of the story, but all sides of the story. (Somebody once said, life is easier when you only understand your side of the story). Try to understand what it is like to be a black person in the U.S. Also, try to understand what it is like to be a police officer in a country with crazy gun laws. Really reflect on these issues, and I encourage you to sit down with black people and police officers and LISTEN…. “Seek to understand before you are understood!!!”
By “seeking to understand”, here is what is clear to me:
1) Being a black person in the U.S. is very difficult. We may not want to admit it. We may want to pretend we are all treated equally. But the facts state otherwise. My black friends quietly admit that unless you are black, it is hard to relate to the real issues facing them every day. They tell me that being stopped by a police officer can be a terrifying experience. This clearly needs to change through training and education.
2) Being a police officer in the U.S. is also very difficult. Given our ridiculous gun laws, is it any wonder we have the issues we have? At the Dallas protests when shots were first fired, the fact that several protesters were carrying automatic weapons made it impossible for the police officers to distinguish the “good guys” from the “bad guys”.
A fantastic example of a values-based leader is Dallas Police Chief David Brown, a black man, who demonstrated true courage throughout the Dallas tragedy. I have read several articles that summarized his thoughts that day:
“We’re asking cops to do too much in this country”.
I loved his response to protesters who criticized the behavior of the police:
“We’re hiring. Get off that protest line and put an application in. We’ll put you in your neighborhood, and we’ll help you resolve some of the problems that you’re protesting about.” That’s an interesting idea….it would certainly help people to UNDERSTAND.
I always appreciate your thoughts and comments.