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Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2023

Understanding One Another

We must set aside our preconceived notions and biases

Some things are just foolish. There’s an old Jim Croce song that lists a few examples:

“You don’t tug on Superman’s cape. You don’t spit into the wind. You don’t pull the mask off the old Lone Ranger.” And, as the song chorus continues, “You don’t mess around with Jim.”

But I’d like to add to that list, “You don’t try to make sense of City Councilman James Green’s rantings.”

Oh, I know, that may not be the right approach either.

For example, in Stephen Covey’s bestselling book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” Habit number 5 is, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” The principle here is that by empathically listening to one another, we create an atmosphere of caring and positive problemsolving, whereby the other person then reciprocates the listening, and a win-win outcome can be achieved. In other words, if we just understood one another better, we would all be happier with one another.

But when the Rev. (and Council President) James Green says, during a Shreveport City Council meeting that, “We, as black folks, we ain’t ever messed nothing up. We’ve never messed it up. What you see in the city is not because you had a history of four blacks (on the city council) who messed this up,” you have to wonder how there could ever be “winwin” outcome with him or an “atmosphere of caring” if all he really sees is your skin color?

There can’t be. If we are unwilling to set aside our preconceived notions and biases to create space for another person’s perspective (without blaming them), there can be no greater understanding of one another. If we cannot acknowledge we’re all infallible, that our knowledge is limited, and that we may not have all the facts, we cannot build bridges or find solutions that otherwise would have remained buried. It’s a reminder that personal and community growth stems from a willingness to evolve, learn and adapt.

And no, that doesn’t mean erasing our convictions, but expanding our horizons, because at the end of the day, we all have much more in common with one another than not.

Where we are as a community is not because of “black folks” (as he put it). And it’s not because of “white folks” either.

For some reason (or maybe no reason at all), the Rev. Green doesn’t want us to be reminded of what we have in common because he is still dividing us all up in the most uncivilized, elementary and ignorant way: by our skin color (and, as Green is a reverend, that really makes no sense, as I’m pretty sure St. Peter doesn’t have two lines formed at the gates of heaven based on skin color).

Even with that said, Councilman Green is right about one thing: Where we are as a community is not because of “black folks” (as he put it). And it’s not because of “white folks” either.

It’s because we’ve elected men and women whose ideas weren’t the right ones for too long, and we’re worse off for it. Good ideas don’t have wings. They don’t just take off. They require leadership abilities to bring them to fruition, and far too many of our elected officials haven’t had it in them despite their arguably good intentions.

Many didn’t have the temperament to concentrate on large-scale organizational change. They weren’t secure enough in their own beliefs to deliver the changes needed because they folded when faced with almost any political resistance to those changes.

And look, leadership is not for everyone, but we don’t have to elect them into office, either.

According to Fortune magazine, 70% of CEOs fail because they cannot execute. They don’t get things done, are indecisive and don’t follow through. And yet, we keep electing these same types of folks (irrespective of skin color) to lead our communities and country, year after year.

I know, I know, these politicians tell us how they are “working for us,” that “now is our time” and that “our children deserve better.” They tell us how our streets will be safer, our schools will be better, garbage pick-up will be on time, our water bills will be accurate, and our future will be brighter. And many times, we fall for the rhetoric without any reward.

But Councilwoman Ursula Bowman perhaps said it best: “Every single time it’s not about black and white, sometimes it’s about wrong or right.” And too much of what’s been going on has been wrong.

Rev. Green, consider that maybe what we see in this city isn’t the result of the color of skin, but the content of character – and the competency – of those “certain persons” we’ve been foolishly electing (and re-electing) for too many years now.

Louis R. Avallone is a Shreveport businessman, attorney and author of “Bright Spots, Big Country, What Makes America Great.” He is also a former aide to U.S. Representative Jim McCrery and editor of The Caddo Republican. His columns have appeared regularly in 318 Forum since 2007. Follow him on Facebook, on Twitter @louisravallone or by e-mail at louisavallone@mac.com, and on American Ground Radio at 101.7FM and 710 AM, weeknights from 6-7 p.m., and streaming live on keelnews.com.


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