When people talk about police shootings, it’s hard to find neutral ground. Folk seem either to be biased in favor of the officer or of the alleged criminal.
But I believe that if we are to find real solutions to racial tension in America, we must find ways to bridge the distance between opposing views. It seems to me that one way to do that is to identify a point where we all agree. Let’s take the Ferguson situation. There are a number of facts in this case that few would dispute. Here are a few of them.
- Looting private businesses is destructive. It is also illegal.
- If people are permitted to act in destructive and illegal ways, no one benefits.
- Desperate people tend to do desperate things.
- American law enforcement officers have a right to defend themselves and to protect citizens.
- People who are in the process of breaking laws can be violent and aggressive.
- People who are in the process of enforcing laws can make mistakes.
Agree? Okay. Now, while we are all on common ground, let me make one more statement that I don’t believe anyone will contest.
Eighteen years ago, when Michael Brown was a newborn baby, no one wanted his life to end like it did.
So let’s just start there. What can we do to see that all the baby Michael Browns grow up to become the men we all want them to be? Well that depends on who you are. But let’s say you are a person of a different race not directly connected to the baby. Here are a few things that might make a difference.
- See baby Michael as an individual, not as a demographic. Remember this throughout his life.
- Help baby Michael grow into healthy young man Michael. Do that by fighting for the right of every child to have access to basic health care. Promote good health habits. Challenge your local elementary school to offer healthful meals and fight for the right of children to have physical education throughout elementary and middle school.
- Support public education so that baby Michael can grow up and go to school. Every minute Michael stays in school increases the likelihood that he will make his parents’ dreams for him come true.
- Get to know Michael. Volunteer at his school. Be his coach, his music teacher, his scout leader. Michael benefits from knowing you. Plus, you are benefitted too: your world becomes bigger, you understand people better, and you become less biased against those who are different from you.
- Be okay with Michael wearing clothes that are not your preference. Consider that Michael may disagree with your fashion style too.
- Are you still seeing Michael as a person, not as an age, race, and gender?
- Stop thinking like a racist. Realize you have biases. Work on seeing each person as an individual, not as a member of a particular group. Try this technique: notice people--the cashier, the waiter, the housekeeper. Is the receptionist right handed or left? What rings does your hairdresser have? What color eyes does the police officer have?
- Stop making racist remarks. Wince when you hear the n-word. Take issue with racial profiling. Remember Michael! You wouldn’t want people saying these things about that sweet baby boy, would you?
What else? How can you be a part of the solution?