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With acrimony and division all around us, you know how hard it can be to see things from a different perspective. Maybe you’ve heard me talk about trying to understand other people’s point of view by stepping into their map of the world.
Okay, so it might not quite get us world peace. But I promise you this is a way to start heading in that direction.
I had a map-of-the-world moment reading the Chicago Tribune’s take on one of the most polarizing issues around during this campaign season. Law enforcement, police misconduct, and public safety.
It’s a report on court-mandated reforms of the Chicago Police Department and attitudes about the police. The independent monitor did the research this past winter, before George Floyd’s death and the ensuing protests.
She says it offers insight into police-community relations in Chicago and a clear look at our racial divide.
Rashawn Lindsey is one of seven Black men suing over what they say were unconstitutional police stops. He was 18 when he and a couple of buddies were walking down a South Side street. Police rolled up behind them and jumped out of their unmarked car pointing Tasers.
They handcuffed the three young men together, ordered them against the hood of the squad car and searched them. They found nothing.
No arrests, no charges, and as they allowed the teens to leave, an officer said, “I guess you’re one of the good ones.”
It could have been a lot worse. And still, it made an impression. As Lindsey says now, “My perspective on police kind of flipped when I got stopped.”
He stays home more now and when he goes anywhere, he takes Ubers to avoid walking around. He keeps an eye out for cops. “I notice every police officer that rolls past me. If they are sitting somewhere, I notice them all.”
He’s studying information technology and hoping for a job that will allow him to work at home. It seems so much safer.
My map of the world couldn’t be more different.
I’m delighted when I see a police car in my North Side neighborhood. I only wish I saw them much more often.
Unless I’m speeding down the Edens (it’s been known to happen????) police don’t feel like a threat to me. To the contrary, I welcome officers as allies against the odd burglary, car break-in or graffiti that goes on in any city neighborhood. Maybe any neighborhood anywhere.
In fact, I’ll be on a Zoom meeting this week with dozens of my neighbors, pressing our alderman and police officials for a much bigger police presence than we’ve had so far.
Lately, we’ve been stunned to hear gunfire, right here in North Mayberry, um, I mean Mayfair.
The burglars and graffiti guys don’t have our streets to themselves anymore. There are gang fights going on not too far away; they seem to be spreading to our quiet little neighborhood.
We don’t like it, and we expect city officials to do something about it. Now.
I’m not asking you to choose up sides here.
There are plenty of good reasons for my neighbors and me to count on the cops for support. The police are supposed to serve and protect, right?
We could think of at least as many reasons for a guy in Englewood to distrust and fear the police.
And that’s the point. It’s no use arguing over who’s right about policing in the city. We’re not even talking about the same things because we have completely different maps of the world.
You may already be thinking of other issues about which we could say the same.
Climate change? Pre-existing conditions? State and city budget woes? There’s a long list, isn’t there? Americans are talking past one another, each side firmly planted in their own map of the world.
What if we at least try to step into their map?
It was quite an experience, reading about Rashawn Lindsey.
I imagined myself walking down the street, listening to music, startled and scared when cops showed up screaming at me, “Hands up or we Tase you.”
I can barely picture being handcuffed and thrown against a police car. I’ve never been handcuffed in my life. And searched? You’re kidding, right?
I could feel the fear that experience would create. Also, the anger when it was all over.
And with all of that vivid in my mind, I could certainly understand why someone like Lindsey has a completely different view of police than I do. And how that view might inform their attitudes, their behavior and their votes.
I’d invite you to try the same thing, and not necessarily with a political issue.
Maybe a colleague is pushing a much different direction for a project at work.
Or you and your spouse disagree about how to handle your kids’ learning at home.
Or your congregation is at odds about post-pandemic protocols for coming together.
See if you can step into their map of the world. Crank up your imagination and try to really feel what things are like over there. It’s different, isn’t it?
That simple exercise can really help when it comes to contentious issues and difficult conversations. It won’t automatically settle a dispute of course, much less bring about world peace. But it does put us on the road toward mutual understanding and civil exchange. And that’s heading in the right direction.
I’m curious about whose map of the world you might step into. In fact, give it a shot now and share your experience.