Tensions are high in America when it comes to race, at least that’s what the media wants many to believe. This is not the case for the majority of the country. But, when tensions are played out from cities like Baltimore and Ferguson, it calls for a new way to address the suspected problems. Enter willpower; yes, willpower. The ability to control your beliefs and actions under the framework of one’s best long-term interests.
For example, spouting that all policemen are “out to get you” or that “police are racists”, even though most people know views these aren’t true, shows a lack of self-control. However, these views are widespread among certain minority communities in America. So it shouldn’t be a surprise when they spew into tragic horror shows for the world to see on television. And this is where a large portion of the problem comes from: television.
Every time there’s a tragic shooting involving police and nearly always someone from a minority race, the media jumps to it and reports it for countless hours or days and even for weeks.
Stanford University professor Kelly McGnonigal argues in her book, The Willpower Instinct that, “the more racial minorities are exposed to prejudice, the less self-control they have—and just reminding minorities of discrimination depletes their willpower.”
The endless streaming of tragic events skews and shapes the affected community’s picture of reality to views that are inherently against their best self-interest. They are led to act in ways that stem from a detachment of actual reality. For example, the man who assassinated five Dallas, TX officers in 2016, had a genuine fear in his mind that all cops are racists, a view he cemented from exposure to escalating incidents of high profile shootings over the recent years. He simply lost the willpower to control his worst instincts.
In addition, McGonigal adds that, “Anytime we feel excluded or disrespected, we are at greater risk for giving in to our worst impulses.” Which leads to an obvious question: why aren’t there wide-spread reports of increasing positive relationships among police and certain communities that feel disenfranchised? Imagine for every tragic event involving police and minority communities, there’s a report next to it stating that this isn’t the norm, or this isn’t systematic and that relations are actually improving in the majority. Stories showing that police are good people who care about their communities, that they are willing to risk their lives to protect and not harm others. Relations with police in some of these communities would drastically improve.
Moreover, domestic events have international implications as well. They dampen America’s global luster as a bastion for human rights, leaving the rest of the world mystified how the world’s number one Democracy continues to experience racial tensions in their own backyard and then travels to the backyards of other nations to criticize them for their problems with minorities.
Despite this seductive argument, America stems from positive force unlike many nations around the globe. And it has proved that it can implement impactful change in just a fraction of the time other nations would take. From abolishing slavery, to securing voting rights for all, to equal treatment of every citizen in less than 200 years. One would be hard pressed to find another nation that has implemented this kind of change in less than a millennia. Furthermore, this is what gives me hope about this country despite what currents events may portray. That there’s an underlying goodness of America some choose to ignore, leading to their false beliefs about this nation.