"When you were born you cried and the world rejoiced. Live your life so that when you die, the world cries and you rejoice." ~ Cherokee

Ferguson: 9 Steps Towards Common Ground

As the conversation continues about Ferguson, something good might come out of a very bad situation. However, only if fact-based, rational discussion is had. It would help if facts are not distorted to fit a preconceived viewpoint, and when facts are presented, they are not ignored or rationalized to fit that preconceived view. And it would really help if we don’t choose the wrong case at the right time for our discussion. Arguing about a case with conflicting eyewitness testimony and criminal behavior only detracts from the underlying issue. And solves nothing. Let’s keep our eye on the ball.

Let’s try seeking first to understand rather than to be understood. The ignorance and deep implications of racism would take a much longer treatise, but it would help if we simply get out of our own heads and listen to each other.The following first steps can be a guide to where we begin a difficult journey:

1. If you are not black, you do not know what it is like to be black. Therefore, someone who is not black has no right to suggest they even remotely understand what is like to live as a black person. The same is true for a white person. Removing ourselves from victimhood and judgment is painful, but it is necessary. Racism is real. And it cuts both ways.

2. No person in a position of authority, whether the police, TSA, customs, or security, act, has the right to be a jerk. If you are a jerk, you make every situation worse.  It can’t be a pleasant way to be for you, and it isn’t pleasant for the person you are dealing with. The job should be about service and treating people not just decently but like you care about them. If you don’t care, find another job. Everyone wins.

3. If someone in a position of authority asks you a question, answer it. If they ask you for identification, provide it. You just might fit the characteristics of someone who has committed a crime. No matter who you are. If you have been profiled or harassed, deal with it later. If you don’t cooperate, you will always make the situation worse.

4. Understand that law enforcement deals with bad guys frequently. Being the police is not easy. Dealing with bad guys requires acting a certain way towards them. It may not look pleasant, because it’s not. Don’t handcuff the police. Let them do their job so that the good guys are safe.  And respect goes both ways. Without one, there is no hope for the other. Without mutual respect, nothing changes.

5. Let’s stop circling the wagons. Only discussing race related issues with our own race advances nothing. Let’s have open minded, judgment-free discussions with diverse people so that we all might learn and elevate our lives and society.

6. If you are in the media, stop sensationalizing. Be responsible. Don’t report your version of the facts to fuel negativity. Or worse. The fact that people buy it is a very poor reason to do it. You must be better than appealing to peoples baser instincts. You must be part of the solution or you are part of the problem.

7. If you are only in it for yourself, get out. Whether it be a meeting, rally, press conference, or conversation, it isn’t about you. You are not welcome if your presence or words are divisive and do not advance the ultimate objective of improving the situation for both sides.

8. Don’t be a bigot. It’s really not that hard. And it is so much more rewarding.

9. Give. Be gracious, generous, helpful, polite and cooperative, no matter who you are or where you are.   Imagine if we all just practiced this one.