“We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.” (Anaïs Nin)
What we expect shapes our outcomes. What we expect shapes our outcomes because it changes how we react and respond to people and can tilt our interactions in a positive or negative direction.
What we think about ourselves shapes our outcomes. What we think about ourselves influences how we act in a particular circumstance and how we act influences what others think about us. We can build feedback loops both positive or negative depending on the presumptions we bring along with us.
If I think of someone as being an angel I will treat them like an angel. If I think of myself as an angel I may act like an angel and if I act like an angel people may eventually treat me like one. However, if I see someone as a threat, and if I treat them as I perceive them to be, they may become hostile towards me.
There is some truth to the idea of self-fulfilling prophecy. We do to an extent become what we expect to be and push others towards outcomes that reinforce our presumptions and prejudices about them. Be careful not to stack the deck against a person, put them in a corner or pigeonhole them and instead hold off before judging them as long as can be done safely.
If we expect black men to be thugs. If we put special emphasis on violence and negative statistics related to black men, it could prejudice us towards the many black men who are guilty of nothing. But worse than that is to defend black men who do engage in thuggish behavior, which does not serve justice one iota and actually reinforces the stereotype. Instead, if we expect black men to be role models, then we should emphasize those who are role models and not excuse those who have already excused themselves from living responsible lives.
If we think of police officers as thugs. If we put special emphasis on anecdotes that fit a particular angle and judge individual situations by history rather than actual evidence, we are no longer on the side of objectivity or actual justice. Certainly police should be held accountable. Police do make mistakes and there are enough cases of authorities engaging in thuggish behavior to make a case for oversight. But it is not helpful to dwell on only the negative examples, each situation should be judged on its own merits alone and we should avoid getting caught up in the frenzy of those who have presumed to know without actually knowing.
I am not a police officer nor am I a black male. But I am fully human, I have been in positions of authority and also in circumstances where my differences were used as a basis to judge me. So I have some capacity for understanding both even though I could never fully understand the pressures either of them face. We all have times where we need to interpret without fully knowing what we are up against. How we interpret another person might say as much about us as it does them. We need to be introspective over judgmental.
The killing of Michael Brown by officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson was tragic. But it is made even more tragic if we use one decision made in haste as an excuse for more deliberate and less rational behavior. Rioting and senseless destruction is awful, yet what is more awful is that it reinforces the same negative impression that it supposedly is protesting. Images of black men acting violently, extrajudicial death threats and other irrationality only hurt the cause of justice.
Truly, if we want change we must first start with changing ourselves. The presumptions we bring in to our evaluation of a circumstance influence how we respond to the circumstances we encounter and could dramatically shape our outcomes. I have had many interactions where I choose to believe the better of the other person and was eventually rewarded. First impression goes a long way. If I am respectful to a person who was seemingly rude or unfair towards me, that generally works better for creating desirable outcomes than my getting confrontational or making accusations.
“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21)
We must put responsibility on ourselves for our own attitudes and actions first. Jesus taught to to take care of our own flawed vision before attempting to fix others. Jesus said to treat others as we wish to be treated rather than demand an eye for an eye and to endure persecution. He taught to honor and respect authorities that fell well outside of our own standards. That is my goal. My goal is to be more like Jesus and transcend cycles of violence rather than participate in them.
I expect to find goodness by being good. I want to think well of myself and well of others rather than build on the negatives. I wish to be full of wisdom, free with my love and slow to judge. I believe the world is a better place when I cease with my own excuses and be the better man.
That’s my perspective…