De-escalation Is the First Step To Humanization

The old saying that you get further with honey than vinegar needs a reboot in political circles in 2018.

We humans can be so mean when we don't regard each other as just like us. It's bad behavior, and doubtlessly true. Just look at comments section in news reports or a random Twitter feed.

It's easy to be toxic under the cloak of anonymity.

But once in a while, people actually see each other face to face. And something magical can happen — they can be courteous to one another.

Take the example in the attached YouTube video, and described by social scientist Arthur Brooks in a recent New York Times article.

Sept. 16, 2017, had the potential to be an awful day on the National Mall in Washington. It started with a rally, organized by a group of Trump supporters, called the Mother of All Rallies Patriot Unification Gathering. Counterprotesters from a group called Black Lives Matter of Greater New York began shouting at the crowd. The event’s organizers shouted back, and the two sides began moving toward each other. As the situation became more combustible, onlookers recorded the scene on their phones.

Suddenly, however, the confrontation took an unexpected turn. Tommy Gunn, the organizer of the pro-Trump rally, invited Hawk Newsome, the head of the Black Lives Matter group and the leader of the counterdemonstration, onto the stage. “We’re going to give you two minutes of our platform to put your message out,” Mr. Gunn said. “Whether they disagree or agree with your message is irrelevant. It’s the fact that you have the right to have the message.”

Mr. Newsome accepted the invitation and addressed the hostile crowd with evident sincerity. “I am an American,” he said. “And the beauty of America is that when you see something broke in your country, you can mobilize to fix it.”

When someone in the crowd shouted, “All lives matter!” Mr. Newsome responded: “You’re right, my brother, you’re right. You are so right. All lives matter, right? But when a black life is lost, we get no justice. That is why we say black lives matter. If we really want to make America great, we do it together.”

The hostility dissipated. By the end of his brief address, many people were cheering for Mr. Newsome. Video shows demonstrators in friendly interactions. Mr. Newsome posed for pictures with a Trump rallier’s kids.

Brooks' conclusion from this and another study he describes? "We often assume that people are less bigoted in theory than they are in practice. ... (but) people are more hostile to others in the abstract than when they meet them in person."

What does this mean for you? Stop "othering" people who disagree with you and enter "the lion's den." Or as Brooks suggests:

Be like Hawk Newsome and go where people are hostile and tell them what is in your heart. Reject the homogeneity and anonymity of social networks. Let’s go even further and make this into a national movement of American renewal.

You in?