Racial bias has long been an issue in America. In this episode, Bill Stierle and Tom discuss a hot topic revolving around Mayor Pete Buttigieg facing a challenge in his home city of South Bend, Indiana. With this issue, we will talk about conflict resolution with racial tension. The African-American community is furious, wanting Mayor Pete to show that he is on their side, and they’re claiming he should fire the officer immediately. Views of people across the nation have been conflicting, and as tensions rise, so does issues of equality and race. Bill and Tom believe that the value of serving has been proportionalized or hijacked, and the language, thoughts, and behaviors that follow with it. Join Bill and Tom as they share their stand on this controversial issue.
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Finding Truth Amidst Conflict And Racial Bias
Bill, I’m very interested to jump into what is a pretty hot topic in the United States and it is right in the wheelhouse of your experience in conflict resolution, empathy, compassion and the whole thing. I want to set this up and then get your thoughts because we’ve seen Pete Buttigieg face a challenge in his home city of South Bend, Indiana where he is the mayor of the town. He is in charge of the police force. It’s his responsibility to deal with any issues there. He left the campaign trail, went back to South Bend because there was an officer-involved shooting where a white police officer shoots an African-American suspect. There are questions around that shooting. Was it justified? Was it not? The African-American community is livid, to put it mildly, and wanting Mayor Pete Buttigieg to show that he’s on their side and they’re claiming he should fire the officer immediately.
Let me say that I think he left the campaign trail, went back to Indiana to deal with it. That’s what he should do. That’s his job. He wasn’t there for the shooting. He’s looking as best he can, what are the facts? What does the evidence show? There are some questionable circumstances because the body camera for his police officer, which they’re supposed to have on and using, was not on. That is suspicious. Is there evidence this was a racially motivated act and not a police officer doing his job? I see Mayor Pete Buttigieg is in a no-win situation and he’s trying to do the right thing, it appears.
Tom, the thing is we do get stuck as human beings in our mindset. This is a very challenging conflict that is up to say the least. The phrase no-win situation.
I labeled it, didn’t I?
No, it’s good. It’s exactly what you’re supposed to do, Tom. That’s your job. Your job is to label it. The phrase no-win situation is it’s whenever there is a definitive moment, we can’t go back and take the thing back that is really horrific that took place. We’ve got to be able to, as human beings, slow down and get the gravity of what has been lost. No matter who the person is, it’s a life that has been lost. That’s where the sweet spot is in dealing with conflict is facing the most difficult, the hardest question first, not trying to problem solve the result of the hard issue. You’ve got to face the thing that’s in front of you first. When the news comes in, tell me more about what happened when he is first in the “got you” moment. The cameras could be rolling when the “got you” moment comes on. The way you’re describing the story, initially I feel sad and disheartened about the loss of life anytime it happens in my city. That’s the first sentence that comes out of a person’s mouth.
That would have framed the entire situation much better. It would have had the people who right now are angry with Pete Buttigieg saying, “You need to fire the cop,” and asking him if black lives matter. He’s like, “Of course black lives matter.”
You’re already behind the eight ball here. You already can’t get a clean shot at the primary issue. The primary issue is the loss of life. One of the challenges is to face the moment where we as human beings have got to pursue truth, pursue justice and at the same time, at the back of our mind, as well as America needs to have reconciliation about how justice hasn’t taken place for groups of people in the United States, specifically African-American people and others that are all in that place. In this huge moment is I feel deeply saddened, disheartened and shocked by the news of someone in my city dying because of what happened. Who knows what happened? He didn’t know what happened, but at least he’s keeping it and putting some breath. There’s a rush to problem solving where there needs to be a rush to empathy and compassion.There are influences and biases where truth and truth perspective is concerned. Click To Tweet
He didn’t recognize the number one need that the citizens have.
Also how torn he’s going to be when the need for safety for the police officer also needs to be met, but a part of their job, it’s on the side of many cars, “Protect and serve.” The protection part works two ways. Number one, protection for the citizen. That’s the one that’s on the first side of defense. Serve the citizen. It applies back to the police officer. Protect yourself and serve the greater community. That’s when if there is a weapon, if there is someone acting out in your direction, acting out towards another person.
Threatening, I think is number one.
We’ve got to see that on what’s happening there. The need for truth gets skewed a little bit in our modern society because one event that happens in the news cycle translates to the next event. You can have an event that happens, it was in Phoenix with the doll the little girl stole at a Dollar Store. The police are treating it like it’s a terrorist attack.
That was another shocking incident and caught on multiple cell phone cameras.
That justice and that escalation, when that police officer translates it to paper.
Did you see that? That was amazing. He was like, “I ordered him to spread his legs.”
“I kicked his leg out and it escalated way to meet my own need for safety. My adrenaline and cortisol was late because there was someone who stole something.” We are Monday morning quarterbacking. The need for safety is very important to police officers. You and I will never know all the things that they face and their adrenalines and their things that are showing up. The way they’ve been escalated and desensitized to their daily experiences of protecting and serving and then picking moments of restraint that we don’t get a chance to see.
The other thing that I think when we see an officer involved in shooting, it very often ends in the death of this suspect. I don’t think that everyone realizes that police are not taught to shoot to immobilize or to shoot to deter or to shoot to disable and prevent someone being able to hurt them. They are trained to shoot to kill and it’s instinctive when they’re in that situation because there are actually life-threatening situations. It’s very hard to tell the difference between one that may be life-threatening or only potential bodily harm threatening. It’s in that moment and for people, I think we all need to recognize that you’ve got to comply with an officer, whether they’re right or wrong in their accusation or suspicion of you. I’m sorry, I felt like I wanted to mention that because oftentimes they’re like, “Do they have to kill them?” They don’t have to, but they have this deadly weapon that is what they need to use to save their life. It’s hard to be precise and use it to save life and preserve life at the same time.
There’s a preset mindset. That’s the thing that African-Americans are so furious about, it’s the preset mindset that an African-American person is more dangerous than a white person. That’s racial bias. They’re looking through a filter. It’s not like we haven’t had multiple levels of exposures and desensitizing or reinforcing those stereotypes that are so not true. I’m thinking about one videotape I watched. The Things I Tell My Black Son, there’s a videotape like that. It’s talking about the things that African-American parents need to tell their kids about how racial injustice is going to be projected in their direction and how it is life-endangering at a younger age then a white parent would ever have to tell a white kid. It’s really disturbing. I feel sad. I felt disheartened, touched, moved about that difficulty. It doesn’t need to be there. In the video, I remember watching this African-American guy who goes, “I’m not a scary-looking black man.” Meanwhile his wife looks at him goes like, “Honey, you are a scary-looking black guy.” She’s recognized that but he doesn’t even see it inside himself, “I’m not scary.” That’s not the problem. He’s been already identified as that person.
Before you and I get caught in the really terrible situation of two white guys talking about black people’s issues, watch how you and I can have a constructive supportive narrative. Let’s turn it. We turn it to human beings now. Not white guys talking about crap we don’t know. You and I don’t have to wake up in that situation. We just don’t. We’ll never know the level. We won’t know about it. We won’t know what it’s like to see images of ourselves that look like ourselves being cast in that direction, being talked about in that way. We won’t know and we will not carry the experiences and the generation let alone the slavery. We are clearly on the other side of this issue. We are not there. That’s the scary honesty. The scary honesty is we will not fully get it, but we do have the ability to have empathy and compassion for the experience and upgrade our skills and mindset. We can do that part of it because whenever I go into a high conflict situation or handle a very difficult question or teach people how to deal with difficult questions, we can have some skills. The first one is I’d like to gently shift back on here’s a police officer and here’s a citizen and here’s what Mayor Pete Buttigieg could access as far as language and talking points when he’s dealing with this issue.
Number one, empathize with the loss of life. Number one, I feel deeply saddened by this experience the way you’re describing it to me. I feel confused and bewildered and want to get to the bottom of this very difficult situation that you’ve described to me. It’s important that safety to take place for the citizens in my city and safety to take place for African-Americans throughout the nation. I need trust to be restored between the citizens that rely upon the police to have trust between them and the police officers that may or may not have taken place in this situation. Why? He doesn’t know yet. Making sure that the citizens have reassurance that I’m going to do what I can and whatever I can to clean up, to make right, to make sure and to double our efforts on situations like this happening in this city as well as throughout the United States. Come back around to or experience that I am playing full out to find out what the truth is in this situation. I am on the citizen’s side, but I am not offending any police officer right now.
The most of America from the outside looking at this situation in the media, this line that you walked which for you was instinctive because of your vast experience with all these concepts, this language de-escalating conflict on and on. I think most people can’t even see it. I called it a no-win situation, but you turned it into a win-win situation.
I’m moving towards it. I’ve got half of it done because the other part of it, you’re right, is that I’ve got to walk the line of where the greatest loss is. Where’s the greatest loss, Tom?Oftentimes, there's a rush to problem solving where there needs to be a rush to empathy and compassion. Click To Tweet
It’s obviously the life of the person that’s been lost.
Whether it’s the discussion, you’ve got to have empathy for the loss of life.
As we were talking about this, I even regret saying you turn it into a win-win situation. I regret it because to me the loss of life is never going to be a win situation. That’s probably not the right way to phrase it.
Let me see if I got that right. Let me give you some empathy about the disappointment that you feel. You do feel disappointment of it and many politicians will use a phrase like that and that becomes the “I got you” moment that then goes viral. Tom, when our resources, our phraseology, our belief structure and our imprinting blurts out a phrase like that, and this is what causes regrettably the candidate to lose. They’re being so cautious, they can’t get a winning moment and then they don’t have the languaging skills to create a differentiation moment, which is what you and I are talking about right now. When we purchase truth, this is the positive side of purchasing truth. I am purchasing this with integrity. I’m purchasing this with a fulfilling narrative that allows me to stay connected to my humanity as well as extend the humanity to what’s happening on the other side. I am in a place of integrity of doing it at a difficult situation with a difficult experience. If I’m looking to create a compassionate moment, that’s the win-win that you were talking about.
It would have sounded like, “Bill, it’s interesting or it’s powerful to move back to a compassionate moment that there’s no real win-win that is taking place.” I’m using your phrase, but it’s after compassion and empathy, “There’s no real win-win.” Your brain would have naturally adjusted to it. Here’s when parenting goes south, here’s when relationships go south. Here’s where teacher-students go south. A tragic communication between because the way we’ve been trained is more through labels and diagnoses, problem solving, fixing and explaining instead of through a language of compassion first.
That is the whole point of this entire situation in South Bend. I do want to come back to that toward the end, but let’s continue on the path. You said you were halfway there.
The second half of the equation is empathy for the police officer and also the scary honesty of the struggle. The role of a police officer is to protect and serve the public, to provide safety for the public. A part of that safety is the interaction between the police officer and the citizen. Any one of the citizens in my city has got to experience that protection, that service and that safety is coming between the police officer and the citizen. If the citizen is not bringing safety back in the direction of the police officer, the police officer needs to meet their own need for protection and safety when the citizen is not bringing that safety and protection back. We don’t know what the truth is right now because the thing to both have an experience of anger, helplessness and skepticism about is the camera was not on.
Now, I get to talk about the camera issue over here, but I don’t want the camera issue to be talked about when I’m talking about the loss of life of the citizen. I don’t want the camera to be talked about when I talk about the role of the police officer, but now I’ve got a chance to talk about here’s what we can rely upon for truth at this time. We want to spend time with that truth and not let other moments of injustice to affect the proportionality of this experience, affect the truth of this experience and also to see how the circumstances set this thing up either inside the officer area inside the situation because it’s not made in a vacuum. This decision to pull the trigger is not fully made in a vacuum. There are influences and biases because we are talking about truth and truth perspective. We are talking about influences regarding mindsets. We’re talking about generation over generation of where trusted truth has not been met.
Unlike you, you brought in the example, which you’re saying don’t let it be influenced by other things, but the reality is the average American can’t help but do that. I saw this incident in Phoenix where the police, it’s like a SWAT team attack on this family with the Dollar Store Barbie doll. We don’t even know if it was intentionally taken. That, in so many American minds, paints the police as overbearing and out of proportion, even if the “crime” happened. It’s a type of thing that deserves an officer knocking on their door and home and saying, “Did this happen that maybe you guys not realize that all was taken from the store? We need to find out about that.”
Can you imagine the parents getting home, the police officers who can get there and be there at a distance? The kids get home, the parent gets home. The doll is taking place. The doll is taken into the house. The poor little girl is putting this doll in. This one’s an easy one because there isn’t the loss of life, but there is a generational trauma that has been set forward in the field of time that someone else has got to pay for now. Who? Society. Who got it? Who has to pay for that? The next police officer. The story of that little girl telling about the experience of dad being treated this way, mom being treated this way.
What about the children? To me, the thing I thought about is how psychologically messed up with these children are going to be now and having this happen. They’re probably having nightmares every night because of that.
We are sensitive as human beings. Our bodies are soft animals. We’re soft animals. Can you imagine the difference would have been just modestly? Let alone to the people at the Dollar Store, the police officer reaching in, pulling out a dollar, “What was it again? Here’s a dollar. I paid for the kid’s thing.” That’s the easy part, instead of giving them something. Let’s go ahead and let’s make this protect and serve moment for the police officers. The protection part is there’s no danger going on here with the doll being stolen for $1. There’s no protection piece in here. The serve though is not so bad. They could literally go up and knock on the door and say, “I want to let you know this situation took place.” The mom is going to be mad and scared. The police officers at the door, mad or scared, one of those is to come in next. I’m going scared first. That’s what I’m going first. Mad, angry second, “I want to let you know this thing happened. Is it okay if I take a moment to talk to her?”
The police officer gets down on his knee, face-to-face with the little girl, “I’m guessing that you really loved that doll. Things at the store are important. Here’s $1 for that thing that you got there in your hand. Can you promise your mom that you’ll let her know the next time you have one of these things and take them? In fact, can I give your mom $1 right now? The next time if you’d like a doll that you can ask her for it instead.” I’m quarterbacking in hindsight. My logical mind is in charge. My language mind is in things. I’m doing a moment of proactive leadership and training. I look at the mom and go like, “Would you be willing to bring your daughter some kindness about how much she loves this doll and how important it is for her to go for the things that she wants in this world? Also that it’s okay for her to ask you for those things. The next doll is on me. I want to let you know, I gave the store $1 on your daughter’s behalf for the doll that she took because we do want fairness to be met for the store for the things that they have.”
What’s incredible is that teaches the child and the parents a bit. Maybe it’s a strong word, but an injustice here, “There was something that wasn’t in alignment with fairness and that the store didn’t get the value for that product or whatever.” It teaches them that was wrong without scolding them. It’s much more effective.We can't enforce values with violence. Click To Tweet
Tom, we can’t enforce values with violence. Shall we let that lead the piece? You can’t enforce values with violence without a consequence on the other side. We’ve only tried that with every war to enforce the value. With wars, there are people with values that might be different than ours, but here’s the thing, they all inherently have the same values and most of them don’t have those values corrupted or hijacked. When a value is hijacked or corrupted, you get a terrorist. I can do it on the other side. When you have the value hired and corrupted, you get an over-reactive police shooting or police incident. That’s not protection and that’s not serving. Who are you serving? The store? The dollar? Capitalism? What are you serving? The value of serving has been proportionalized or hijacked and then the language, the thoughts and the behaviors that follow with it. I can have as much compassion for a terrorist whose values that had been hijacked because the value is still there. It’s been co-opted with a tragic response.
Let’s take this back to the missed opportunity for Mayor Pete Buttigieg and how he could have met the needs of the citizen, the needs of the police officer and the police force in general. Probably the police unions all over the country who are looking at this and exhibited leadership and allowed the process of justice and truth to take place.
Mayor Pete Buttigieg with the candidates and then we’ve got to come around on the other side to see how Donald Trump does this. Let’s do this one first. He’s going to be peppered by questions and all the politicians are going to be peppered by questions. People are going to come up to them and say tragic things to them. When there’s a “got you” moment, the opposition will take that language got you moment, that faux pas and proportionalize it as it is. That’s what they think of you. Hillary Clinton’s got you moment is the one that’s been amplified called deplorables. A follower of her says the word deplorable in her direction. She listens to it and in a moment, she thinks about and her mind flashes to something that fits the deplorable definition and says deplorable with no context on what she’s defining as deplorable. All of a sudden is you’ve got a T-shirt, “I’m one of the deplorables.”
The entire base on the other side felt like she was labeling them.
Whether it’s an identity, a political party or a race, African-American. As soon as somebody gets put into a box and labeled and diagnosed, compassion drops off. Empathy for the other side drops off. The ability to have objectivity and the ability to respond to difficult questions plummets because the emotion of the candidate is high and their ability to respond is low. Let’s take Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s moment. Let’s say the black lives matter sentence to me.
“Do you think black lives matter, Mayor Pete Buttigieg?”
“I feel sad and disheartened and all life needs to be protected. Black lives do matter. We need some clarity on truth right now. We need to protect life and we want to make sure that justice looks like we’re working off of truth in this incident and not let past injustices that have taken place against the African-Americans to be projected into this moment. We want to take this moment as a moment where a life was lost. Let’s keep our eyes on finding truth here. As the Mayor of South Bend, my job is to advocate for safety and protection for the citizens and make sure that the police officers are safe and get to go home to their kids. This one person cannot go home to their family and that’s where the loss is at this moment.”
Talk about a de-escalating and there’s something empathetic there for everyone involved.
In the moment it does take a little while, a very short amount of time to be able to respond in a compassionate way for this situation. As a human being even talking about it, and you and I talking about it, there is a swirl of sadness that’s going on in my body right now. It can’t help to happen that way. It’s got to happen inside me. The candidate is going to struggle right now because they’ve got to fight back the projection from all past events throughout history that are coming into this moment. The candidates got to advocate for accountability and integrity. Also, it has got to handle the mourning of a life that needs to be at center stage. Somebody has got to bury somebody right now.
Unfortunately, what we’ve seen happening is that Mayor Pete Buttigieg has been almost making the same mistake you and I have talked about. I’m not saying the situations are exactly the same, but making the similar mistake that we say the media makes when they’re confronted with something that’s not true and they come back at it with facts. I think Mayor Pete Buttigieg, without coming at this with enough empathy and compassion, is trying to say, “I don’t have evidence that this was a racially motivated killing.” That’s it. It’s like you’re done.
You’ve got to go empathy and compassion for the greatest problem. In this moment, here’s where it becomes interesting and also upsetting at the same time, is that at the same week, the experience of the drone being shot down, the president thinking about this counterstrike and then saying, “No, we’re going to lose 150 Iraqi lives. I don’t want to do that. The loss of life is not proportional. This multimillion-dollar thing is not worth the loss of 150.” The way it’s framed is not worth the 150 loss of life. Who’s getting credibility right now where Pete Buttigieg is going to take it a hit? He’s getting credibility. Whether it’s real or imagined, whether it was set up or not, that’s not what the brain does. What the brain does is like, “He looks proportional.”
He looks empathetic too.
The innocent Iraqi lives, he looks empathetic to that. Meanwhile, part of my judgmental mind has been manufacturing, crafted and brought about by the series of decisions that he’s creating.
It doesn’t matter. It hits the elephant brain. It’s tapping that brain.
It hits the elephant brain. The brain sees the president is being compassionate and empathetic to life. It gives the people on his side, “This person does care about life. He does care about others. He is empathetic.” People call him not empathetic. He showed an empathetic moment. It doesn’t matter if it’s manufactured enough. The brain is seeing it invalidating that my guy. He literally picked up somewhere between 100,000, 200,000, 300,000, 500,000 votes by that moment and Pete Buttigieg lost, but he can recover.
If it isn’t done right, this has the potential to looking back a couple of months from now to be the beginning of the end of his candidacy. This can take him down. It’s a big serious moment here.
There are some similar moments that Joe Biden has. There are similar moments that Cory Booker has. There are serious moments that each person has that when they’re not framing the moment. It’s one thing about President Donald Trump that is both disturbing and also admirable is that he frames a sales marketing promotional narrative effectively. He frames it. He draws all four corners of the frame. He provides it. There’s no picture in the frame because he doesn’t deliver on any of the frame. He doesn’t deliver the picture. He’ll say, “The wall is so much more beautiful now. We’ve done some wonderful things on the wall.”
When there’s hardly anything has been done. That’s not what people hear.As somebody gets put into a box and labeled and diagnosed, compassion drops off. Click To Tweet
“It’s much better. I ordered it to be this way. It’s thicker than what it was than I had promised you the last time I promised you the wall. It’s better designed now.”
“It’s more beautiful.” I’ve heard that.
I think you’ve done only X number of miles here. That was all preset before you even got there. Very unsettling because in marketing, branding, marketing and sales, it’s all about the sizzle. It’s not about the stink. If you get caught talking about the stink, you better go back to dealing with the reality of it and empathy and compassion moments. On the debate stage, some candidate, even the main candidate, will be drug into and the question will be asked by someone about Donald Trump’s empathy towards the Iraqis and he now has a moment where he looks empathetic and compassionate.
Here’s another one. During the campaign when Donald Trump ran the first time, there was a guy that traveled to Iowa whose son overdosed on opioid and said, “Candidate Donald Trump, what are you going to do about the opioid crisis?” It gave Donald Trump an empathetic moment, “We’re going to handle that. You’re a good father. He was a good son. He’s proud of you right now. We’re going to do something about that.” When he gets in office, the moment then sets up that he’s going to do something about Big Pharma. He’s going to do something about Big Pharma selling drugs, saying that they’re not addictive when they were and they knew it. How many lives did that cost? How many doctors trusted pharmacies and their prescription? “This is not addictive. It says right here on the bottle. It might be so you might want to hold back a little bit, check in and see how your body is doing. No way it’s completely addictive.”
That father later on said, “He used me in that moment.” That moment got amplified. It got proportionalized just like this Iraqi thing is going to get proportionalized. Like Pete Buttigieg’s moment is going to get proportionalized. Donald Trump is way better than him. He saved 150 Iraqi lives and he respects life. Look at the judges he puts in place. They’re going to overturn abortion. He respects life. He doesn’t care about that. It’s a branding and marketing opportunity in order to raise his sizzle perspective because the rest of his content and the rest of his actions are not in alignment with truth. We’re back to purchasing truth. How do I get truth to work? How do we get truth to work for myself not another person? This is how it gets dis-proportionalized. Here’s how empathy, compassion and powerful language can be used to frame the narrative and look at the center of the picture and stop looking at the frame. It’s bad.
Anyways, I’m glad that you brought this up. I’m so glad that you set the ball on the tee a little bit for us to hit. That’s the power of moving forward is getting it to engage in leadership, what candidates are going to struggle with. They have to deal with carrying the sins and burdens of the past. Yet with empathy and compassion, have to restore accountability, restore integrity, restore the rule of law, restore the ability to trust, restore the pursuit of truth and get truth to be proportionalized both nationally and many times globally. We’ve got to look at these things. Here’s this moment, here’s this perspective. Here are these human beings that are working out this issue. How are we going to have our best moment with this and not escalate the conflict? Yet alone clear up the accountability of the past. Clean up the integrity of this moment.
The police officer has got to be asked about this situation many times. Also, if we want restorative experience to take place somewhere, someone, somehow, if I was Mayor Pete Buttigieg, it might sound like this in this moment. He’s after the fact. He’s been caught with a got you moment. Here’s this new moment. We’re going to be working to have restorative process between the police officers and this victim’s family. The law needs to be applied and we need to deal with that, but the restoration for the community needs to take place also, just like restoration needs to take place in our nation. Now, he’s a president.
That was a great discussion, Bill. Thank you so much. I appreciated it and I hope our readers do too.
Thanks a million. Until next time.
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