UPDATE Individual Fears Produce Racist Acts – Transformation and Healing on the Horizon | Educating Gossip



The American Bar Association Journal posted on September 22, 2016 that the police officer who shot and killed stranded motorist Terence Crutcher on September 16, 2016 will be charged with manslaughter in that fatal shooting.

As I posted recently, emotions are linked to racial beliefs. According to reports, Officer Betty Shelby has said in an affidavit she feared for her life and had ordered Crutcher to get down on his knees.

One wonders where the fear arose from: Is it a result of police training that teaches to treat everyone as a criminal, rush in spouting commands, and feel the emotion of fear if the individual reaches for a closed driver’s door?

And, is it possible the professed fear arose from some paradigm shared by others in the police department? (A paradigm is a set of understood assumptions that are not meant to be tested; in fact they are essentially unconscious. These buried assumptions are part of one’s every day thinking.) Note that both the Tulsa World newspaper and Tulsa television station KJRH later reported that video footage contradicted initial reports:

7:43 p.m.: Helicopter footage begins, showing Terence Crutcher slowly walking with arms up toward his vehicle while being followed at a close distance by two uniformed officers. One of the men in the helicopter notes that it appears a Taser is about to be deployed, and the other comments that Crutcher “looks like a bad dude, maybe on something.”

One must ask, “How can one make such a character assessment from high above in a helicopter?” And why pull a gun? Clearly others on that police force understood that other less lethal options were available and in fact one officer had Taser sights on the stranded motorist.


Daniel Kahneman has reportedly stated that it is his hope that the modes of thinking that result in bias and errors in decision-making will become widely understood and efforts will be made to adjust one’s thinking so that bias and errors are reduced or eliminated. He calls this educating gossip. In this case, perhaps one sees System 1 intuitive thinking behind both the officer’s actions and the helicopter pilot’s statement. Intuitive thinking is fast, automatic and emotional and often based on paradigms (simple mental rules of thumb), and thinking biases that result in impressions, feelings and inclinations.

Perhaps what we witnessed was representativeness heuristic. Heuristics, very simply stated, involves or serves as an aid to problem-solving, learning or discovery.  Representativeness heuristic is when an individual intuitively thinks that different events that seem similar to the individual have a similar likelihood or occurrence—when often they don’t. Perhaps this different event of a stranded black male motorist seemed similar to some other event where danger was present, when in fact, this occurrence was not the same.


Take a look at this under 2 minute video to hear what educating gossip is:



System 2 thinking poses other bias and errors in thinking.

According to Kahneman, System 2 thinking is rational thinking that is slow, deliberate and systematic and based on considered evaluation that result in logical conclusions. And yet, System 2 lazy thinking can lead to errors and bias in decision-making.

Perhaps confirmation bias resulted in the killing of the stranded motorist, Terence Crutcher. Confirmation bias is intuitive thinking (fast, automatic and emotional and often based on paradigms (simple mental rules of thumb), and thinking biases that result in impressions, feelings and inclinations) towards interpreting information in a way that confirms preconceptions. Clearly, the pilot voiced his preconception that the motorist “looks like a bad dude, maybe on something.” Here, it is difficult to identify what information about a motorist and a stopped vehicle can be interpreted in a way that perhaps confirmed these preconceptions.

One can also consider perhaps an additional System 2 bias at the center of these police actions: Halo Effect and WYSIATI.

The Halo Effect is intuitive thinking biased by existing judgments about a person—if one judges the person negatively in one respect, one is likely to assume they will be negative in another. In other words, Shelby may have been judged Cruther to be a “bad dude” in one respect, leading to an assumption that he is a “bad dude” in this circumstance. (Note that there is some debate in race studies about possible underlying psychological anxieties, reinforced by racial stereotypes, that often result in acts of violence against racial minorities.)


WYSIATI is intuitive thinking biased by the assumption that “What You See Is All There Is” where one discounts or ignores what one does not know; jumping to conclusions on the basis of limited information. WYSIATI helps to explain over confidence, framing effects, and base-rate neglect biases.

Perhaps the officers were over confident, intuitively believing that they were encountering a ‘bad dude.’ WYSIATI rule implies neither the quantity nor the quality of the evidence counts for much in subjective confidence (like the motorist’s hands in the air; the vehicle stopped in the road.) The confidence that individuals have in their beliefs depends mostly on the quality of the story they can tell themselves about what they see, even if they see little. They often fail to allow for the possibility that evidence that should be critical to their judgment is missing—what we see is all there is.

WYSIATI also helps to explain other bias that may have been present at the point of decision-making by the officer. Perhaps the framing effect bias also was present. The framing effect is when different ways of presenting the same information often evokes different emotions. If the same information of a stranded motorist had been the same, yet the different way of presenting was a white female or a white elderly male motorist, that information might have evoked different emotions in the police officers such as compassion, empathy, provision of aid instead of evoking feelings of fear. (If indeed we accept this defense of fear to be accurate.)

And lastly, WYSIATI also helps to explain another bias that may have been present at the point of decision-making by the officer: Base-rate neglect. The personality description perhaps held by the police of Cruther as a ‘bad dude’ is salient and vivid, and although one surely knows that there are more black male law-abiding citizens than black male ‘bad dudes’, that statistical fact almost certainly did not come to mind when they first considered the hapless motorist.


It is highly likely System I and System 2 biases were in play during this tragic encounter between police and a motorist needing roadside assistance. Many questions arise: Why were the responding police officers so suspicious? Why did the officer rush in rather than take the time to assess the situation? Why not see the situation as a motorist needing assistance rather than a ‘bad dude’ who needs to be shouted into submission? Why the use of lethal force? These and many more questions can be answered by bias and errors in decision-making: System I and System 2 thinking.

The good news is that as people talk about and consider these human biases and errors in thinking, educating gossip will become more natural and commonplace, thus displacing intuitive thinking that is fast, automatic and emotional and often based on paradigms (simple mental rules of thumb); and thinking biases that result in impressions, feelings and inclinations. And by reducing lazy System 2 thinking that can lead to errors and bias in decision-making.

Watch the video again about educating gossip and join me in owning our beliefs; feeling courage to change those beliefs so when we know better we can do better; live a better life in community with others; and love the life you live. Let’s start edugossiping!!

Own it! Feel It! Live It! Love It!

the Educating Gossip ™


When the Killer Wears a Badge: Race, Advocacy, and Healing

When the Killer Wears a Badge: Race, Advocacy and Healing

Own it!

Image Courtesy APA
Image Courtesy APA

I am currently researching a paper while reading the works of psychoanalysts who are uncovering how power uses race as a tool to oppress people around the globe for economic gain. I appeal to all psychoanalysts to step up and advocate for human kindness and dignity to be afforded to all people. The profession is in an ethical impasse, as I understand it, about its place in society to advocate from their position as professional healers. And while Rome burns, they fiddle. This I know is harsh criticism of the profession and I know it does not reflect the position of everyone in the profession. Yet, society needs them to lead the way towards healing. The works of Paul L. Wachtel, Carter A. Wilson, Robert Maxwell Young, Frantz Omar Fano, Joel Kovel, Eugene Victor Wolfenstein and so many more reveal that we must never lose sight of the economic and social interests being served and mediated by racism. Racism is viewed as false consciousness at the social level, scapegoating and rationalization at the individual level. It is not unique and is always a mediation of socio-economic issues. What is unique is its virulence – the sheer psychotic permissiveness of racist feelings and the actions to which they lead.

I can’t do this work, as I am not a trained psychoanalyst. Thus I call upon the profession of psychoanalysis to engage in professional advocacy on behalf of human kindness and dignity.

Feel It!

13-year-old Tyre King, who police said was wanted for questioning in an armed robbery, ended up fatally shot by a police officer in Columbus, Ohio. Photo Courtesy of Walton and Brown, LLP
13-year-old Tyre King, who police said was wanted for questioning in an armed robbery, ended up fatally shot by a police officer in Columbus, Ohio. Photo Courtesy of Walton and Brown, LLP

As a lawyer who studies critical race theory and spirituality, and having developed a theory for personal and social healing, I still felt in my body shaking, my stomach churning, tears streaming from my eyes; and the emotions of profound sadness, helplessness, frustration, exhaustion, insecurity, disgust and so many more emotions when I read stories of two black men and a 13-year-old male child were killed by police since September 14th. (Tyre King, Columbus, OH; Keith Lamont Scott, Charlotte NC; Terence Crutcher, Tulsa, OK) and the release of a shocking video characterized by former Cook County Judge Andrew Berman as “gangster-like” police shooting, saying, according to Susan Richardson, Editor and Publisher of the Chicago Reporter, “If these had been White kids, this would not have been handled this way.” How can one justify tazing a motorist who is trying their best to not be a threat by hands up, hands on vehicle when all that is happening is a motorist needing assistance? Where is the “Serve?” The facts of these killings suggest something deeper is happening. The psychoanalysts have insights to this phenomenon. The economic and social relationship comes first and finds plenty of scope for mediation through human psychic processes. I can relax, breath deeply and write. The emotions of hope, optimism and enthusiasm now give me courage and vitality to carry on my work. I am a lawyer. I recognize that policing is difficult; it requires continuous training on officer safety, identification of threats, proper use of force, and so many other tactics. Yet the center of policing, to “Protect and Serve,” requires people skills and emotional intelligence.

Live It!

Image Courtesy ClassCrits
Image Courtesy ClassCrits

In doing the work of critical race theory and spirituality, I can add that it might be wise for society to consider a higher standard of care required by trained police officers than that of an ordinary citizen who has not received the specialized training of police officers. The current “fear of imminent danger” is woefully lacking in its acceptance of a recitation by trained officers that “I was afraid.” Policing by definition places officers in harm’s way. One should be afraid. Yet, proper training and debiasing practices can reduce or eliminate the emotion of fear to the point of killing when encountering black people.

I think about Young’s statement that “the dialectic – the deep, mutually constitutive interrelations between the racist and the oppressed. What binds them together is not only the worst aspects of human nature – aspects that may well be ineradicable. What makes these destructive aspects take the specific form of racism is historically contingent, and at the root of that contingency is the social and economic organisation of the world that gives order to consent along the lines of economic and nationalistic relationships which are specific to our own age.”

Love It!

Original painting by Emilia Bang-Chalk used with permission of the artist’s parents.
Original painting by Emilia Bang-Chalk used with permission of the artist’s parents.

I intend to incorporate these psychoanalytic findings and revelations into my work. On September 16, 2016, NBC News published an article by writers Kurt Chirbas, Alexander Smith and Erik Orti, reporting “As with all police-involved shootings, the officers will receive “mandated psychological support counseling” and be given the opportunity to “take leave time to assist in recovery from a traumatic experience,” according to Columbus police.”   Let’s hope the psychological support counseling is lead by professionals familiar with the psychoanalytic studies about race, power and justice. Let’s hope the counseling provided is informed by the economic and social interests being served and mediated by racism. Let’s hope, dare I add, the counseling reaches beyond recovering from a traumatic experience to racial healing.

“The key to any attempt to keep economic and social interests in the forefront of our understanding [about racism] is to try to think dialectically,” suggests Young.

 “The arch of the moral Universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr.


More Moral Panics : Dog Whistles that Distract | the Educating Gossip ™

KaepernickOwn It: I find moral panics both bothersome and intriguing. On the one hand, I know them to be lame attempts to disrupt, distract, and divide, typically around race. Yet as a strategy, it is so effective at snaring a large segment of the community. Why? Why are individuals so easily triggered emotionally to the extent that they can’t think straight?

Feel It: These moral panics get me shaking my head: I’m no longer amazed, nor surprised by the panic it creates. As I dive deeper into my spiritual journey, I feel sad. Good people want to care about issues that matter. And the technique of moral panics is jerking their chain: intentionally causing stress, pain, dis-ease, outrage, and strife.

All these intentionally negative disruptions cause tears in the fabric of peace and unity within the individual and the community. Wisdom studies identify these acts of disruption as a mindset, a spirit, if you will. It is a mindset of hate, hostility, and confusion. Individuals are warned to beware of these tactics and people who use them. These warnings are found everywhere: in theology, religion, spirituality, humanist studies, psychology, sociology, and just plain common sense. And yet, so many fall prey to its emotional moralistic triggers.

For my Christian friends, I think on Colossians 3: 12-17. The two ideas in these passages inform me to know that the wisdom contained in these writings are worthy of consideration; and second, that this source of wisdom recognizes and acknowledges that there is a longing in individuals to experience freedom from the moralistic regulations and religious systems that enslave them. Here is how to do so: “…clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience….And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”

Live It: So I chose to write. I seek to draw to me, those individuals who seek enlightenment through my process of studying critical race theory and bias. The sharing, I believe, will elevate us all now. There is so much good information and communities of consciousness available to anyone who seeks a deeper and richer understating of reality (that is to say, humans on a planet spinning wildly through the cosmos).   This process includes creating a life well lived as an individual living in community with the world.

Love It: For me, life on this planet is a vastly interesting human experience that brings me more joy than angst. My intention is to share this experience and welcome you, in the spirit to love, to join me.

Take Aways:

Beware of all or nothing thinking.

As to Kaepernick: Remember that individuals have the cherished right to free speech. Each individual must bear responsibility for their own life’s journey. Protest and dissent is a precious American value. It may not be the choice you would make, but it’s their life choice and ought to be respected.

And lastly, Lotche and personal responsibility: the truth matters. Lies (including embellishments, exaggerations, half-truths, and boulder dash), especially when designed to shift the blame for one’s own bad judgments and decisions, onto others and in the process attack the core being of the other’s human dignity, is just plain wrong, period.

These events ought not to be causes for  individual or community moral panic. However, it is cause for seeing the reality of democracy at work (Kaepernick), and for seeing the reality of bad decisions made by an immature adult (Lotche).

Ryan Lochte, Moral Panics, Dog Whistles, Oh My! | the Educating Gossip ™

RLotche“Moral panics” and “dog whistles” are used by capitalist power holders to distract citizens and scramble their thinking. The result is a loss of energy and focus that could be used to sustain demands for political equality.

The Ryan Lochte story is a power-wielding capitalist’s dream come true.  A story of white privilege played out by three Olympic medalists, filled with violence, racism and lies. This supposed moral panic (an instance of public anxiety or alarm in response to a problem regarded as threatening the moral standards of society) is another instance of distraction.  Learn to identify and ignore these stories.

Stay focused on moving the government (Executive branch, legislative branch (e.g. Congress), the courts, and the citizen lobbyists) to appoint a Supreme Court justice now (govern); enact polices that will overturn Citizen’s United, stop fracking (stop the poisoning of life sustaining water reserves in America), move from oil, gas and coal to solar and wind (reduce the production of life threatening ozone and carbon emissions), re-negotiate the federal subsidies to insurance companies (stop the corporate greed that profits by raising the cost of health insurance, creating the dual evils of bankrupting individuals while at at the same time denying them life sustaining wellness).

This is an incomplete list of where American attention needs to remain focused. Yet it is a place to start, were American fundamental values of fairness, freedom, equality, responsibility, integrity and security can be strengthened. Empathy and responsibility for oneself and others are core values of America. Healthcare, education, food on the table, and social systems are essential to the social-psychological well being of America.

Who’s got time for irrelevant moral panics and dog whistles? I don’t. Own it, Feel it, Live it, Love it!

Debiasing 2016 Election | A Hero’s Journey

When debiasing oneself from intuitive thinking—System 1 the fast, automatic and emotional, and System 2 the slow, deliberate and systematic –one can understand and accept that it is indeed the beliefs and ideology held by the candidates that matter. Ideology, the integrated assertions, theories and aims that constitute a sociopolitical program
is different from beliefs (defined as a degree of conviction of the truth of something especially based on a consideration or examination of the evidence.) Both a candidate’s belief and ideologies matter. Although in this coming election, people may feel that there is not a significant difference between the candidates, there are in fact very significant differences both in beliefs and ideologies. In the hero’s journey that is life, one takes up the courage to explore the differences in the candidates as it relates to ideology and beliefs about democracy, and the people whose lives will be affected by the selection of a candidate. This process often challenges one’s own biased, intuitive thinking. It is often uncomfortable yet necessary as an informed voter. Own it! Feel It! Live It! Love It!

View Now at DemocracyNow!

Gold Star People, Communities and US Election 2016

Many people in other countries around the globe risk violence to exercise their right to vote. Yet in the United States (US), less than half of those eligible to vote in presidential and mid-term elections actually go to the polls and vote.

Amy Goodman, host and executive producer of Democracy Now! Believes the low turnout is not largely attributed to apathy. There is a direct correlation between low voter turnout and obstacles to voting that make it a challenge for people to participate in this constitutional process. Ms. Goodman identifies several obstacles to voter participation. For example, “holding elections on just one day when most people are working, limiting hours that polling places are open, or requiring photo identification that disproportionately disenfranchises poor people and people of color. And then there are those who feel that there isn’t a significant difference between the candidates, or that money destroys the process so much that their vote doesn’t really count.”

Most people in the US care deeply about the country although they sometimes forget to think about the country within the global context that is the reality. Globalization is the new normal, like it or not. The US can no longer employ isolationism, barriers to trade and other methods used in prior centuries. Learning how to accept reality is a human challenge. It is a hero’s quest, to have the courage to live decently while creating a world that works for everyone. We here at the Educating Gossip ™ celebrate and spread the joy (“gossip”) of people who engage in their communities to create a world that works for everyone. We lift people and  communities up as we join them in bringing love and light to global human concerns.

You are invited to bring to this project your love, your light, and your best intentions to create a world that works for everyone. Comment, post on social media and enjoy being a part of a loving community that seeks to expose imbalances of power, restore balance of power, free those who are enslaved, and overcome (transcend) the tensions found in dualities: to accept reality, and yet live decently within it, creating peace and healing. Own it! Feel It! Live It! Love It!

From a cardboard hovel in a darkened street
To the well-lit windows of a penthouse suite
All are desperate souls with a human fate…
It’s the same old story keeping us apart”
And we all feel lost sometimes
And we all feel hurt inside
And we all cry and we all need

We All Need Songwriters-Bryan Duncan;Charles Barth


#OscarsSoWhite | #WhiteBETAwards

As a social justice activist and social movement scholar, I believe the more irons in the fire (that is to say, creative solutions to the crisis), the better. When one solution gets hot, we can hit it and forge (implement) correction action.

What we can do Now:  Visual Signs of Protest and Support

Perhaps others in the industry who also believe things must change in order for people of color to be nominated more fairly, can quickly build a coalition amongst the people in the industry to wear arm bands, ribbons, something that stands out on camera on the night of the awards. This will show the academy and the world that the industry recognizes there is a crisis, and is willing to do something to bring about change.

Other Strategies

I appreciate Jada Pinkett Smith’s comments. I’m not certain, but think she is suggesting that the people in the industry come together and have their own alternate awards.

I still believe separate is not equal. At a time when there is support for modifications to the voting process the academy uses, I would advocate for weighted votes: the older you are, the less weight your vote gets. This action can be supported on at least two solid grounds: to reflect the voter’s distance from current events; and the voter’s probable status of not having viewed many of the recent movies under consideration. These are reasonable grounds for the action.

Although I hear Spike Lee and Rev. Al Sharpton’s call for a boycott, I believe it makes those who are concerned and are willing to work for a better solution invisible by their absence. Boycotts have their usefulness. I’m just not sure this is neither the time nor place to use that strategy. But again, more irons in the fire, more possible opportunities for solutions and positive resolution to the crisis.

Living It and Loving It,

the Educating Gossip™

Living it AND Loving it!

In August of 2014, a seminary awarded me a Changemaker Fellowship. After a year of academic study and research, I received a Certificate in Spirituality and Social Transformation in May of 2015. The journey over this past year has been intense and transformative. As a result, the mission for the Educating Gossip™ has taken on renewed energy and focus.

This October 24th , I presented a paper titled “Critical Race Theory, Transformation, and Praxis” at the ClassCrits VIII conference. The Educating Gossip™ is exploring the intersectionality of race, debiasing policy using the critique methodology developed by activists in the ClassCrits movement, and those of Daniel Kahneman, along with theological, psychological, and philosophical techniques to critique beliefs.

The Educating Gossip™ has been invited to present this paper to another group of activists this month. And, plans are being made to bring this teaching online. So, keep checking back to find out how you can benefit from this research.

Living it AND Loving it!

Feel Go(o)d Politics | Spirituality, Bias, and Civic Engagement

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