Healing Deep Racial Divides and Creating Communities We Want to Live In

As we mourn the deaths of Alton Sterling in Louisiana and Philando Castile in Minnesota, as well as the five police officers in Dallas, President Obama reminded the nation that we should live up to our highest ideals, have an open heart with one another, learn to stand in each other’s shoes and see the world through each other’s eyes.

  • How do we systematically develop that sense of interdependence and interconnectedness?
  • How do we heal deep racial divides and trauma that have been passed on for generations?

We know that if we want our communities to be peaceful and loving and empathetic, each one of us has to find peace, love, and empathy within ourselves.

Chronic stress is a common denominator among everyone involved in the recent killings across the nation. For example, we know that just as inner-city residents are chronically stressed, so are inner-city police officers. The more stressed we are, the lesser our ability to pay attention, regulate our emotions, and feel empathy.

  • Inattention is the difference between seeing and perceiving, and that difference (reaching for a wallet or a gun), as we have seen, can be a matter of life and death.
  • Emotion regulation is the difference between reacting and consciously choosing an optimal response, and that difference (relaxed and alert, or angry and afraid), as we have seen, can be a matter of life and death.
  • Lack of empathy is the difference between feeling separate and feeling interconnected, and that difference (us versus them), as we have seen, can be a matter of life and death.

Practices, such as Dynamic Mindfulness or mindful movement, done regularly, develop our capacity for resilience in the face of chronic stress and trauma. These tools are for all of us – everyday citizens and police officers, parents and children, teachers and students.

These practices compliment, enhance and enable all our efforts at system change.

It is time to come together as community members, neighbors and families. In the face of chronic stress and trauma, let’s practice the transformative life skills available to us, to help us become more resilient. Empathy and compassion for others will abound in communities that are resilient. It is on us to live up to our highest ideals, and empower others to do the same.