By Dr. Shane Wall
Nationwide — The black community has been outraged by the murder of 18-year-old Michael Brown. Some say officer Darren Wilson shot and killed the young man for no reason. This unnerving situation has exposed conflicting points about how different ethnicities understand society.
Why is it that when a white man is killed by a black man, the white community doesn’t become as enraged as when the opposite occurs? Do whites attain their resolve by saying that they, “…expect this type of behavior from ‘blacks'”? In that case, are whites who call blacks overemotional during these tragedies justified in their assumptions? Is the case of Michael Brown the type of behavior blacks should expect to receive from white officers? The key to analyzing cultural behaviors lies within a sadly overlooked concept I call “understanding.”
In my book, Understanding: All Success is Attained by It, I argue that every action we take stems from how we understand the world. Time brings influence. Influence creates decisions. Decisions father every action, and every action renders a result.
That’s how life works. Understanding life is as simple as knowing who and what we allow to influence our decisions. Be it at home or in the US Senate, decisions force each of us to live someone else’s view of what life should be. Understanding is the DNA of the choices we make. Cultures are ultimately formed by how we collectively understand.
The outrage in the black community stems from how we understand the role of African-Americans in society. For centuries, blacks have been presented a vivid picture of inferiority to whites.
History has taught African-Americans to struggle and fight to obtain freedom so, when injustices occur, the community is enraged and social unrest erupts in an attempt to hold on to precious freedom.
On the other hand, when a black man murders a white man, the white community does not run to the streets in protest and looting because they’ve experienced a different side of American history. So, they respond accordingly.
Tensions rise when one group expects another culture to understand life according to their point of view. The reason we still have racial prejudice in America isn’t merely because of hate, but because we tend to only look at situations and people by how our own culture judges circumstances.
To eliminate cultural, racial, and ethnic barriers we need to empathetically seek to understand one another outside our own cultural lenses. Understanding is not like opportunity, because it doesn’t knock. On the contrary, understanding stands by in plain sight, waiting to see who will recognize it, call it out, grasp it and share it. Understanding evaluates the conduct of everyone equally.
Unfortunately, during events like the Michael Brown incident, instead of understanding, confusion and speculation are the usual first responders on the scene of social unrest. For instance, another Darren Wilson, a black 18-year veteran police sergeant in the St. Louis, Missouri area, began to receive hate messages from the public when Ferguson, MO Police Chief Thomas Jackson announced the name of officer who shot and killed Michael Brown.
A part of our society responds to tragedy with such indecency because some believe that hatred is the best way to handle dark times. Understanding is not birthed by what is said or even shown, but always by what is believed. Belief, an internal value system, teaches us to understand the world through faith or fear, love or hatred, trust or suspicion.
Instead of consoling, praying for, and hearing out the man many thought was the man who shot Michael, several pursued to tear him down. Today, several in our culture are convinced that seeking understanding through destructive measures is the proper course to take. Death threats and more murders will do no justice to Brown or anyone else for that matter.
True justice comes by the understanding that goes beyond one’s preconceived notions. While tragedy affects communities differently, the color of an individual’s skin plays no role in understanding. The human tendency is to act on what is believed, and what is believed becomes the understanding one holds as truth. Whether black or white, whoever can seek absolute truth, regardless of a previously formed opinion, can find and disclose a solution to virtually any problem.
Dr. Shane Wall has been speaking internationally for over 30 years and is the author of “Understanding: All Success is Attained by It”. Follow him on Twitter @Shane_Wall or visit his web site at www.understandingnow.com