I have been fond of saying, “Our judgments of others are somewhere between irrelevant and dangerous. Rather than judging others, we must learn to be aware of, and responsive to, their full human potential for good, and evil.”
After a brief chance conversation with some colleagues, I am changing my position:
“Our judgments of others are somewhere between irrelevant and “deadly.” We must constantly confront our natural subconscious prejudices, biases, fears and loyalties, which generate our judgments of others so that we can be aware of their full human potential for good and evil, and be equipped to properly interpret and respond to their behavior in the context of the situation.”
Let me set the context. I was talking with a friend in the hallway of the academy when an officer came from a seminar we were hosting regarding officer survival. The instructors were using data from the FBI LEOKA (Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted) studies. The officer was beside himself regarding two separate incidents the class had highlighted where officers apparently ignored a male subject’s girlfriend. In each case, the girlfriend was able to obtain a weapon and kill officers. The point of the training seemed to be - honor female cohorts’ adversarial worth.
My mind instantly began reeling with another video I have seen of a Texas DPS Trooper stopping a motorist for not wearing a seat belt. The motorist pulls into the median strip to stop. A lone white man who was 72-years old at the time emerges from the driver’s seat and produces an assault rifle. The motorist walks toward the officer brandishing the assault rifle. Approximately 8 seconds passed with the brandished weapon in plain view and approximately 5 seconds passed after the man is standing within a few yards of the trooper pointing the assault rifle at the trooper before the man fires the first round from the assault rifle (ignoring repeated orders to put the weapon down). Other officers arrive who are held-at-bay for some time, unable to provide medical assistance for the wounded officer, but probably too close to safely deal with a shooter possessing an assault rifle.
On the other end of the spectrum was two West Memphis police officers gunned down May 20 by a teenager with an assault rifle as they struggled with the teen’s father. The youth emerged from the minivan with an assault rifle just as the struggle began.
Imagine if the exact scenarios were to happen again, and this time instead of the shooters being female or an elderly man or a youth – the suspect has the appearance of a “dangerous” gang-banger covered with jailhouse tats. Do the officers close the hesitation / cognitive dissonance / disregarding gap and survive?
Think of Fort Hood TX and the active shooter. If you take the shooter’s race and religion out of the picture and simply deal with the behaviors and the total context of the developing circumstances – is the Army able to objectively assess the situation and take decisive administrative action to avert the catastrophe?
If the answer to the questions posed by these tragic scenarios is yes – or even probably, we may have a case of deadly sexism, deadly ageism and deadly racism.
Again, our judgments of others are somewhere between irrelevant and deadly.