Thursday, July 30, 2009

A Teachable Moment- Resolving Conflict

President Obama followed through on his invitation for a sit down beer with the folks involved in the Gates' arrest. Crowley, the police officer involved, stated that he felt the discussion and outcome were constructive and that the focus was on how to move forward to prevent an unfortunate occurrence from happening again. He stated that there was no finger pointing or any display of animosity during the conversation but that is was an environment of acceptance and friendliness.

Many say that Obama has backdowned on addressing a serious racial profiling issue by stating that he misspoke when he used the word "stupid" concerning an officer's actions and by having a sit down beer with those involved.

For those who think that way I propose the following scenario. Let's say Obama backed up his use of the word "stupid". Now, the police department would have a reason to stay on the defensive since no one wants to appear to be behaving stupidly and it is very difficult for many to admit when they may have behaved somewhat inappropriately. Thus, continuing along this line would have generated greater defensiveness and served to help breakdown the already low trust level that people of color have toward the police. Nothing would be resolved and an already bad situation would become worse.

So, yes, there is a discrepancy in how the police handle situations involving people of color as opposed to caucasians. People of color already know this. The move in the right direction is to take action that will create the greatest liklihood of moving towards a solution and eliminating conflict not just the conflict between the two people, Gates and Crowley, but also eliminating reasons as to why people of color think they are treated differently by the police.

People must be willing to sit down and understand each other and then work together to create a solution. This is the constructive approach.

We all make mistakes and it is what one does after making that mistake that is a defining moment of one's character.

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