We’ve all been affected by the cries heard worldwide from individuals mourning the loss of a loved one at the hands of police. While this is definitely tragic, unwarranted and saddening, we can’t forget that many police officers have also lost their lives at the hands of civilians.
Violence isn’t the answer, neither is murder, so what can be done to prevent these tragedies from happening? How can we peacefully start a dialogue? One that leads to action, initiative — what exactly does that look like?
I recently sat down with author, motivator, speaker and consultant Bob Paff to discuss his thoughts on America’s current state, and determine what exactly needs to happen in order to start that dialogue, the strategic elements that could be executed amongst police, government, and individuals, and the significance of the upcoming election.
“This has been brewing for years. I don’t think this is a situation we’ve adequately dealt with on a governmental level, and I think that is why we are seeing things in the suburbs of St. Louis, the suburbs and city of Chicago, the city of Baltimore, and everywhere else,” Paff says.
He feels that until we deal with the 800-pound elephant in the room, we will continue to see violence.
“We don’t talk about it, and it goes back to my book “Communicating to Win: In Life, Love, and Business, and the platform which is communication. We don’t effectively communicate, and these are challenging, difficult, ugly topics to discuss.”
Paff poses this question:
How are we going to talk about our feelings with each other about racial tension?
The root of the issue
Paff says he feels that where we are, there is such anger, hatred, and prejudice creating the uproar. The proof is in what we are seeing between the police and the citizens of America, and, whether you agree or disagree with Paff’s belief, you can’t ignore the direction the world is headed towards and the pending outcome we all may face.
“Police are a very visible representation of government and a form of control,” he says.
“They drive around in marked cars with lights, they wear uniforms, so you don’t have to seek them out because they’re right there, and what do they represent? They represent oppression, control, and the correctional system.”
“We incarcerate more people in America than any country in the world and probably most of them combined. We’re not reforming people to turn their lives around. As a matter of fact, what we’re doing and I think the statistics will back it up, we’re making it worse, and we’re making them angrier.”
Mr. Paff believes the blame lies with the government
Paff believes the reason why we are seeing this much violence between police and citizens is because police officers are at the bottom of the totem pole.
“Police officers are the most logical target for our anger, our hatred, our frustration, they’re on the bottom of the totem pole and I will stand by that, and I think that’s why we’re seeing the police brutality. Congressman and women walk around with police detail. Police do not have that. They are their own. They have to protect themselves,” Paff explains.
There are a few things that Paff wants to make clear for individuals who read this: he is not defending criminal behavior and he isn’t trying to bash police officers either. In fact, he feels for them.
“I would not want that job. It’s an extremely difficult job.”
They don’t get the respect they deserve, and that’s not the fault of the general population, that’s the fault of the government.
“You see, that’s where the blame lies. It’s the government’s neglect and ignorance of what’s going on out here. If you’re driving in a security detailed limousine, how are you possibly going to know how the average to below average person in Baltimore, in Chicago, in Dallas, in St. Louis is feeling? The answer is you can’t.”
“Where are the changes?”
“You have to have structure, but the government has done a very poor job with communicating the partnership and advocacy to create that partnership between the community and the police, and it’s just getting worse. Louisiana, Dallas, we don’t have leadership. What I am sharing is my own observations and, in large, my own experiences. I don’t think the majority of the population, certainly the African American population, view the police as their friend, their advocate anymore, and we need to deal with that,” Paff says.
He feels that the trust is gone and explains how there used to be a time where police would drive by and you would feel safe. Not so much anymore.
“Now when police drive down your street or in your community, what’s your immediate reaction? It’s what did I do? Why are they here? Let’s talk about how you feel when that uniformed officer walks through your neighborhood, let’s talk about getting more people on the streets,” he shared.
This past April marked the one year anniversary since the unfortunate passing of Freddie Gray last year, and Paff says he has yet to see his city learn anything.
“I’ve told some public officials here in Baltimore that we haven’t learned much of anything from a year ago. If I am wrong, and we have learned some things, then I don’t know what they are, and there’s been no discussion, there’s been no leadership from City Hall to talk about this and no conferences.” He continues.
“So I think the attitude is if you ignore it long enough, it will go away, but it will be replaced by the next tragedy. And when you don’t have people discussing these issues, they feel ignored, they feel dissatisfied, like they’re not being heard, and they feel as if they don’t have a seat at the table.”
No one is immune from the violence within our world, but Paff feels like we’ve put a Band-Aid on our societal problems and we’re not healing the wound or treating the fundamental diagnosis.
“The way we’ve been doing things clearly has not worked. Where are the changes? And the changes is not to arrest people, throw them in jail, or to kill them. African Americans being killed by the police is not the answer either.”
So what can we do about it?
How do we begin to start that dialogue and create the strategic avenues among citizens, police and the government?
“Look at where we are, and look at the statement it is making,” Paff begins.
“My children range from ages 14 to 31. I have four boys and two girls, and I live in fear of, and for, their future. I don’t know what the world is going to look like as these kids grow up. With every generation, with every decade, there’s problems, but I think now, because we have these super power abilities, nuclear warfare, the ISIS and extremists of the world, this is a problem on multiple fronts.”
It’s a problem on the religious front, socio-economic, cultural and political fronts.
Education, religion, small business and communication are significant factors and ways that Paff feels people can get involved and lend their voices to the issues. However, he also says the solution lies in relearning how to support one another.
“We need to get back to the church, to the community and we need to feel, embrace and support each other’s pain and we don’t do that. We’re pitted against each other and you’ll see that in certain cities like in Baltimore,” he says.
“We need to roll up our sleeves, work together, and do that. There’s plenty of opportunities around us, and it’s not about me, it’s not about you, it’s about all of us collectively, because we only win if everyone moves forward, prospers, and succeeds, and it’s the only way we will survive, and that’s what I would tell my children and other young adults.”
Paff continued, “I wondered why so many people around the world read my book, and it came to me, we all want the same things: we want to be loved, we want to be respected, acknowledged and appreciated.”
With the current election, people want to feel acknowledged, appreciated, and to feel as if their voices are being heard, and despite what seems to be the biggest two candidates battling out to see who wins, Paff suggests that people don’t have time to wait.
“We need to get out there and impact more people on a local level. This is a topic and a subject near and dear to my heart. I want to see some engagement around it or about it,” he shares.