Choose: A Joint Search for Mutually Satisfactory Solutions OR A War of Wills and Ego

However you might feel about the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag and the larger movement, I think we can widely agree that "no parent should ever have to explain to their kids how to talk to the police so that they don't become an innocent victim someday".

If we put together all of the people that agree with that assessment, it is my opinion that we would have a clear majority in America.

Yet, much of the language that I see in the discussion of this is expressed in the language of a war of wills. Those-of-us-who-do chant the hashtag will continue to do so defiantly until those-of-us-who-do-not all give in. Or something...

We don't really know what the end game is. We don't know why we're arguing. All we know is we are labelling more and more people racist. (Once upon a time you actually had to do something against someone to be racist. Now all you have to do is take a nuanced position.)

I'll hazard a guess on the endgame if we continue down that road. A war of wills turns into a war of ego. No one likes to give in and they remember it in resentment when they do. (Yes, this is nearly verbatim from "Getting Past No." Wisdom doesn't have to be original... just true.)

The time for a program of awareness has come and gone. The people who care to be aware have overwhelming evidence that something strange is going on and it's going to be hard work to change it. The time is now ripe for a shift from awareness toward the joint search for mutually satisfactory solutions.

We need ideas. Specific ones. Ones that condemn neither Black Americans or Police Officers as being inherently wrong or at fault. Ones that don't attack white people for having been born white. Ones that don't condemn people who mean well but aren't sure what to do.

Condemning is cheap, lazy, and seductive. Do you have it within you to propose instead?

With specific proposals, we can leverage that majority that I think exists. We can name specific action. We can lead.

None of us chose this situation. No human being would. But it is in the nature of life as human that we must rise to take responsibility for things that are "not our fault".

We Can and Must Do Better

"To admit we’ve got a serious problem in no way contradicts our respect and appreciation for the vast majority of police officers who put their lives on the line to protect us every single day. It is to say that, as a nation, we can and must do better to institute the best practices that reduce the appearance or reality of racial bias in law enforcement."



Ending Racism by Enrollment Rather than Privilege and Guilt

Following is the latest from another round of replies on the same thread on Medium that I posted about yesterday. This is a rich discussion even though there is a bit of talking past one another.

  • I am challenged on whether I am diluting the original author's experience
  • I claim that writing about racism implies a goal of changing the system
  • I lay out my ideas on how discussion of privilege is often, "an underhanded way of slandering people and “being right” without affecting any real change"
  • Why I think guilt is not enough to affect change and instead we need to enroll everyone

I’m going to start by talking about what we agree on.

Miss Matti’s piece as written is perfectly fine as it is and no one is asking her to change that piece. As written, it moved me to care enough to respond.

My response isn’t neutral. I did challenge a perception. And I did make a suggestion. It’s my right to do this just as it is her right to put into words how she felt about her direct experience. It’s also her right to ignore me if she thinks I am a waste of time.

I would like to clarify that if Miss Dominique Matti feels discouraged or diminished in any way, by any word of what I have written, I will gladly apologize to her directly for this. Not that she should care about what I think other than the extent to which I make sense (which is exactly the extent to which I care about people).

You are right also that Miss Matti may not be interested in changing the system with her piece. But her writing isn’t neutral either. And it just so happens that we are agreed: We do not care to have racism exist at all. Let’s squash it.

And what good would it do to end racism if the system remained exactly the same? Changing the system is implied. This is what I see as the larger purpose.

Yes, I am presumptuous to assume she would care to hear my thoughts on the matter. I am fine with that.

You are right that I have my own purposes. I desire to defeat tyranny in all its forms, including the tyranny imposed upon Black Americans. And I intend to be really nosy and I get involved in discussions that don’t concern me directly but are interesting nonetheless. I intend to challenge perceptions when I think they do not serve the larger purpose.

Maybe I need to check this, because maybe I’m being discouraging or shutting people down. I am taking that to heart as a part of your message to me.

A Pet Peeve: Privilege and Guilt

I will also own that discussions of privilege and guilt are generally a pet peeve of mine. This is not always the case, but I find that it is common: discussing privilege is used as an underhanded way of slandering people and “being right” without affecting any real change.

Here’s how this game works: I declare someone in power and comfort to be privileged. I talk about how my people are suffering. If the privileged react, I know I’m right and I shut down anything they say as [xxx]-splaining. If they don’t react I say that they’re ignoring me/us because of their privilege.

It is sophistry: Heads, they lose. Tails, they lose.

But… The system stays the same. No one grows. No one learns. No new connections are formed. No compassion granted. None given in return.

Well, I don’t say that all Muslims need to change because of the actions of the militants who decide to kill. (Though I do try to encourage that they live-and-let-live more loudly).

And I don’t say that all White Americans deserve to feel guilty because of the actions of police officers, but I do encourage them to take on the system and challenge their own default perceptions.

Some White Americans will read Matti’s piece and experience guilt, as we see in the comments. Others will blame a system they didn’t choose, and accept no personal blame for it, and move on to the next article. I can’t say that they are totally wrong to feel this way.

Most discussions of privilege qualify as half-truth at best. And the act of name-calling detracts from the goal of offering an opportunity to reflect and change and act. It detracts from enrollment.

Enrolling Everyone

> Why should “white Americans” be included in a struggle that only people of color, especially Blacks are engaged in everyday?

Why do straight people go march in the pride parades? Why do Christians speak out in defense of Muslims after a deadly attack?



The best within us.

Squelching racism and changing the system needs to happen diligently and on all levels of society. Your words.

They are good words.

We, who care enough to combat racism, should be enrolling everyone to challenge their own racism and to care enough to work to change the unjust outcomes in the system.

Some people will need to be convinced that it is urgent and actionable to join the cause. This is why I made my suggestion in the first comment. I stand by my choice.

Matti’s voice reaching across all divides will be stronger than mine because her struggle is not one I am engaged in everyday.


You are as thought provoking as ever, Mr. Clay Rivers. I don’t expect you to agree with everything I have said. Ultimately, that’s what’s interesting about discussion.

I hope you can grant to my bits of writing the kind of open acceptance that you grant to Miss Matti’s original piece. These are my authentic responses and they come from what I hope are the best parts within me. I have no intent to shut anyone down.

I know I am not neutral, but hopefully you won’t mind if I take your advice also and write “whatever I want in any way that I want for whatever purposes I choose” as well.

If The Antidote To Rage Includes Compassion and Empathy...

Following is a reply I made on Medium on the topics of race, unequal protection of fundamental rights, whether our fundamental American values are to be vilified as lies or half-truths.

I like what I wrote so I am reposting it below.

…watching the lie (“America is a free country!” + “Liberty and justice for all!”) that aids many white Americans in ignoring our struggle entirely is equally painful and infuriating.

But this section where she talks about “watching the lie”, suggests who her core audience is not: white Americans. And I think that is a harmful choice if you don’t like the way things are. You won’t change the system unless you enroll some of them to the cause.

Why do I say that Matti specifically excludes white Americans? Because of her use of active voice: “white Americans **ignore** our struggle”.

My opinion: You can’t observe “ignoring”. But you can observe “inaction”.

Another opinion: Just as I cannot look at Matti’s article and know her full intent in writing it, she cannot look at inaction and determine the intent of white Americans.

Per the top hit on my google search, America in 2016 is:

  • 62% White
  • 18% Hispanic
  • 12% Black
  • 6% Asian

I will wager that the level of **inaction** in regards to the struggle of black people is about equal for all of the non-black categories: White, Asian, Hispanic. I don’t think that Asians, Hispanics, or Whites deserve special blame for **ignoring** the equal protection of the fundamental rights of Black Americans.

So in regards to calling out white Americans specifically, saying that they “ignore” actively is a provocative generalization which undermines the strength of any communication. It creates an opportunity to dismiss her writing as biased in spite of the many truths within. And we cannot begin to think about modifying the system without enrolling a large chunk of that 62%.

If the antidote to rage includes compassion and empathy, here are some things I notice about people, no matter what their race:

  • They feel fundamentally unable to change the system and, even though it is clearly not designed for Black Americans, it is also not designed for anyone who doesn't happen to be wealthy enough to buy a legislator.
  • They are, daily, fighting through struggles of their own. They have to pick their battles. They may not have chosen ours. (And if we think they ought to, it is up to us to persuade them to do so, taking full responsibility for the outcome.).
  • They have limited attention spans and **ignore** most of everything that goes on around them because that’s one of the key functions of their brains in order to manage all there is to notice.

These are true for whites as much as anyone else. It’s true for Muslims. It’s true for gays.

We are all human. Most of us are more worried about the world than we admit.

Most of us are too caught up in some kind of game, trying to learn and cope with rules for a game we didn’t choose but started playing somehow anyway.

Most of us never even ask if the game is worth playing.

Most of us don’t even notice that we’re playing a game.

A final opinion — This is the real battle: We’re not trying to get people to stop ignoring injustice, we’re trying to get them to notice it. To understand the importance of turning their attention toward fighting it in spite of their own pressing struggles. To take the time to patiently talk and come up with ideas about where to begin. To craft a long-term vision which will inspire persistent action.