As we’ve seen throughout time, and most certainly within the last few days, race relations continue to hold a firm grip on American society and its citizens. A public forum on stories provided me with some insight and may lend a helping hand to begin to understand the growing empathy gap and polarization of opinion we see today.

Most of us love a great story. We love stories because we find pleasure in pulling the meaning from them. We enjoy the power behind such stories and all the details leading up to its culmination. Most great stories will include protagonists and antagonists who we either like or dislike.

Why is this important? Well, when it comes to life, we have a tendency (intentionally or unintentionally) of arranging what we see by assigning people, places, and things as either protagonists or antagonists. We identify with one side and vilify “the other.” Let’s take recent events as a context to explore this.

Blacks and Hispanics may tell a story of their struggle and plight in American society, as a result of a system controlled by white men who serve as elite government bureaucrats and corrupt law enforcement officials. In their eyes, these officials create, implement, and enforce laws that were not created for them or by them, thus not affording them an equal playing field with their white counterparts. In their story, those people are the antagonist. They will also allude to the various officer-involved shootings involving black citizens and the disproportionate incarceration rates of black and Hispanic men, among others.

If you discuss this with white America, many will tell you a different story where the roles are reversed. Police officers and the justice system are heroes in their story. They claim that the United States of America was established on pure doctrines; police officers are worthy, respectable figures who put their lives on the line each day and racial minorities are unappreciative of their sacrifices. The video below is an illustration of how three different people have three different perspectives on America.

Lecrae – “Welcome to America”

Based upon one’s lived experiences, both stories could be accurate, yet not entirely true. It depends on who you are in America where you will impart culpability. However, protagonists and antagonists are not and should not be credited to people, places, and things. The problem with America isn’t the system and its policies; it is not black people; and it isn’t corrupt police officers or government officials. These people, places and things are merely consequences of the larger problem, which is that the majority of people in America tend to only consider their own stories and experiences when placing blame. We all need to put ourselves in other’s shoes to carefully craft solutions for problems that affect all of us. I’m all for passing legislation and laws that will move our country toward healing and reconciliation; however, these only serve as a Band-Aid. Until we address the root cause, the incendiary comments and misinterpretation of each other will not just continue but worsen.

We each need to look in the mirror, because we all are the problem. We all need to make sincere attempts to understand a person’s complete story and not just judge based on our own. For instance, no one purchases a book to just read the title or the first few pages or buys a movie ticket to merely see the title on the screen and then depart. The same applies to us.

We all likely know people from various backgrounds and walks of life, but do we REALLY know their full stories? If we’re honest with ourselves, the answer is probably no, especially when it comes to people of different races, ethnicities, and socioeconomic status. Please make the effort to get to know the totality of the person. It is only then that you will truly become familiar with their story. Perhaps that will then breed empathy and heartfelt compassion for those suffering and in need. These tragedies in America have been a reminder that each of our stories is still being written. The last period is yet to be dotted. So, let us do better. We can do better. We should not allow ignorance and anger to drive us apart.