Generalizations anger me.
Taking actions that undermine one’s goals confound me.
I’m going to discuss a national debate that illustrates these.
The debate deals with the controversy over the future of policing following the disgusting murder of George Floyd.
This is not a discussion of the merits of positions, although I am in total sympathy with the need to alter police behavior. Here I’m discussing only the logically impaired approaches both sides are taking.
On one side of the issue are the protesters and activists advocating change.
On the other are the local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies for the most part resisting it.
Let’s start with the protesters. They want to achieve a safe environment so Blacks don’t have to fear harassment or worse from the police. They are supported by a large number of others in the community.
Many of them state the police are racist. This is what I call a generalization. Without doubt, many bigots exist in law enforcement and they enjoy harassing minorities. But the statement is really saying that, because there are some or even many racists in the various police departments, all members of those departments are racist. And that’s just not true. Generalizations, in addition to almost always being false, tend to cement hardened views on both sides that get in the way of fruitful discussions.
The protesters also have taken actions that hurt their cause. Instances of violence and destruction have offended many. I think most of the protesters do not condone such activity. The trouble is, the general public doesn’t react well to lawlessness, so it’s bound to hurt the protesters’ goals. Also, it gives ammunition to those perfectly happy with the status quo.
Another unwise strategy is adopting the slogan “Defund the police.” Look how the opposition has jumped on that, even though a complete gutting of the police is usually not what is meant. Unfortunately, the words of the message, especially “defund,” make accomplishing the goal more difficult. Most people still want a police force. They’ll accept changes, but they want to be able to dial 911. And they want first responders to deal with school shootings. Words are important.
On the other side (and it’s unfortunate we have to talk about “sides”), many in the police have their own generalization: Some protesters are criminals; hence all are. Notice the general result based on the actions of a few. The vast majority of protesters are not criminals.
So how are the police convincing the population that it is their side the angels prefer. Seems to me they’re not being very smart either. Overzealous use of tear gas and other crowd control measures. Employment of riot gear and huge displays of force. Unions that don’t accept the need for changes and give tacit approval to the idea that police will not do their job because of fear of backlash. Essentially going against their sworn duty.
Furthermore, many in law enforcement who are quick to condemn the actions of the protesters have demonstrated an unwillingness to follow the law themselves. Some police chiefs and sheriffs have said they will not obey laws restricting guns in their jurisdictions. Some have indicated they do not support the required wearing of masks during the pandemic and will not enforce such an order. How can Blacks, or anyone for that matter, put their trust in police if the same police demonstrate a lack of respect for the law themselves.
We’ve got a real problem here that has to be solved. Generalizations and self-defeating stands aren’t going to help. It’s time for everyone to listen, search for the good people on the other side, modify their messages to truly reflect what is important and basic to their goals, and work together to produce necessary changes.