White police targeted in a rampage of shooting, multiple incidents of black Americans killed by police followed by high profile news reports and outcries of racism, growing tensions across the country about our racial and economic divide. Like all complex problems, the place we find ourselves in the horrible month of July 2016 in the USA, is almost impossible to untangle in terms of how we got here and what to do about it. I would not venture into this tangle except for the sense of hopelessness that is seeming to pervade the commentary taking place and my own belief that we must find a way forward.
Its relatively easy to generate a list of possible actions to take, as many are suggesting:
While all of these might have an impact, none of them is THE answer, partly because they are all part of an interconnected system of symptoms and causes that feed on themselves. More importantly, they fail to address one of the most significant causes of the problem: the lack of understanding, trust and empathy across the racial, cultural and economic divides. They are all top-down actions, that don’t leverage the frustrations being experienced and don’t build anyone’s capabilities to address and solve the complex problems that will always be present in a democratic society.
Another way forward is to generate a nationwide program of local community conversations that would bring together representatives from all sides – affluent, middle and working class, black, white, civilian, law enforcement and policy makers – in structured facilitated dialogues with the goal of building understanding, trust and empathy. A by-product would be a growing belief in our own capabilities to address and solve our problems if we focus on what we have in common rather than what divides us. We have the skills and capabilities to carry this out in a coordinated way, to build a foundation on which to construct a next chapter in our story as a true democratic society.
Please let me know what you think.