Communications about Police, Race and Criminal Justice are Going to Get More Difficult

In the wake of George Floyd’s tragic untimely death, the overwhelming message was crystal clear: what happened to George Floyd was reprehensible and the result of a system gone terribly wrong. Protestors communicated their anger with piercing clarity, and #blacklivesmatter took on a new urgency — something must be done, and it must be done fast.

The call for police reform, coupled with an outpouring of financial support to Minneapolis, has created an immense and critical opportunity — to change the way we police, engage, and support our communities, particularly our communities of color. With this influx of both unwanted horror and opportunity, how we rebuild depends not on what we say, but on what we do.

The most difficult part of working through any crisis — and in this case, the worse-case scenario crisis — is not “What do we say?” about what happened.

The most difficult part of working through any crisis is “What are we going to do?” Because what we do will dictate what we say.

What WILL we do about what happened to George Floyd? How can we make this right?  The four police officers will face prosecution, and that is an important first step for many — to seek and obtain justice.

We also must acknowledge that we cannot make this right. That is the case in almost any crisis. Nothing we can do in the present and future can make what happened in the past right.

But we can make things better.

Saying change is needed is simple — most will agree to the concept, at least in varying degrees. Intellectually, professionally, emotionally, mentally, culturally, racially — yes, this makes sense. Creating and implementing change, however, and effectively communicating with each other during this complex, layered process of figuring out “What are we going to do?” is the next challenge.

And it’s not going to be simple. Or easy.

Whether it’s what do we do about reform, or what do we do to lift people, what we say will turn directly on what we do.


Question: “What do we say?”

Answer (in question form): “What are we doing to do?”

That’s the trickiest part. Figuring out how to fix what is broken, and to make sure a death like George Floyd’s never happens again.