Organizational Theory, Cops, and Race

A recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll reported that 73% of the electorate “believes the United States is on the wrong track.” This is what Daniel Henniger stated in his opinion piece “A Nation at Half-Mast.” The first thing that came to mind when I read this: what electorate, people that read the WSJ? If so then the data will be skewed to the right. The second thing I thought about was whether the respondents were focused on the election, disliking the choice between crooked Hillary and racist Trump; or the direction of the country as a result of eight years of President Obama and an ineffective congress? Whenever I read something like 73% of people think something, I have to assume there is a purpose for framing the conversation a certain way.

As I dug into the opinion article it did seem to me his point about gravitas was important, but I also think he tended to push things to the right a bit instead of trying to find some common ground. This is similar to what everyone’s doing today: polarizing around different narratives. In light of today’s event in Florida, where a black man laying on the ground next to a young man who is autistic and is shot by police, we have to say enough is enough. We need to figure out a new way.

Peggy Noonan in her opinion piece on Saturday titled “Three Good Men Talk About Race,” helped me to see how this polarization could be happening. She identified what seems to a big issue in our society, we want to talk, but you need to listen. She rightfully states, “even though everyone on media asks for a conversation about race, most of them don’t really mean it.” Parenthetically, I really think the media is the biggest instigator of racial issues in this country. Keep the situation enflamed so we can have more people watch our shows, use our social media, or buy our papers. Most people who are pointing out the issues of racism on camera just want to yell, not find really compromise and solutions.

The fact of the matter is I have never, nor will be, a black man in the United States. How can I even think I understand what a black male experiences day to day in this country. All I can do is listen. I have never been, nor will I ever be, a policeman walking a beat within the inner city. I don’t know what it is like to walk up to a car in the middle of night not knowing what may happen. But, I do know that I am trying to process racial issues in our country.

Tim Scott, a U.S. Senator who is black, has been pulled over multiple times while in Washington, DC, as many as seven times in one year. I have talked to several black men that I know and each of them had the same experience. In the neighborhoods where they live, driving on I-5 in the state of Oregon, or in Vancouver. I have asked black fathers if they had the discussion with their sons about interacting with the police. Each of them said they have. I know that all of us have conversations with our children about respecting police, etcetera, but the conversation of a black parent with their son could be the difference between life and death.

Police Chief David Brown, Dallas, has recently made some very interesting comments highlighted by Peggy Noonan in her Saturday editorial. Brown stated during a press conference, “We’re asking police officers to do too much in this country. They’re paying the price for every societal failure. Not enough mental health funding? Let the cop handle it. Not enough drug addiction funding? Let’s give it to the cops. Here is Dallas we’ve got a loose dog problem. Let’s have cops chase loose dogs. Schools fail? Let’s give it to the cops. Seventy percent of the African-American community is being raised by single women – – let’s give it to the cops to solve that as well.” David Brown would eventually say, “Society has to step up.”

If there is one thing I have learned as a businessman, entrepreneur, and college professor, there are always two sides to every story. If only we would listen to each other? Maybe we could come up with better solutions than we have in the pas

The last man Peggy Noonan mentioned in her article was Brian Williams. He was one of the trauma surgeons in the ER during the Dallas shooting. This is a man who is used to “multiple gunshot victims.” However, as he noted, “the preceding days of more black men dying at the hands of police officers affected me.” Williams is a black male, and similar to those shot by police, and even this surgeon had been pulled over by police just because he was a black male, “once thrown spread eagle on the hood of a cruiser.”

However, Williams also recognized the plight of the police. “I abhor what has been done to these officers.” He ended up standing in line with the police line of honor for those police shot and killed.

People tell me that it will never change! This has been going on for over 100 years! I have people yelling in my right ear black people kill more black people than the police do. I have people in my left ear telling me that the police are racist. I know police officers and they are not racist. Both of these comments are shortsighted and incorrect. The black community, the white community, and the police all have systems in place, systems that have developed over the years, and these are systems that can change. It will take more than platitudes and assurances. It will take more than empty liberal promises, and it will take more than conservative ignorance. It will take real progressive, not the phony stuff, thinking that has the ability to hear the other. Only then will we be able to make a difference.

Business people know about this. We study change methodology. We study systems thinking. So much of that theory applies to what is occurring. Instead of seeing business as the enemy, why don’t we look into the theoretical foundations of organizational theory and then apply that to our communities. Maybe, just maybe we will be able to create large-scale societal change.

And that is my thought for the day!


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