Fred McKinney (opinion): The resolution of social conflict using the technology of love

Members of the Multi-faith Anti-Racism Change and Healing Group celebrate after the verdict was read in the murder trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin on April 20 in Minneapolis.

Members of the Multi-faith Anti-Racism Change and Healing Group celebrate after the verdict was read in the murder trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin on April 20 in Minneapolis.

Tribune News Service

Now that the Chauvin trial is over, like many Americans, I breathe a sigh of relief. However, one guilty verdict does not change the toxic relationship between American police and the Black community. Questionable police shootings took place in Columbus, Ohio, and Elizabeth City, N.C., within hours of the verdict. In nearby Brooklyn Center, Minn., another young Black man was killed by police. And this week we learned of another George Floyd-like knee-to-the-back killing of a Hispanic man by cops in Alameda, Calif.

The question that we must ask ourselves is: How do we heal this nation? The George Floyd Justice and Policing Act being considered in Congress would address many of the problems with American policing. However, it will take more than a law, or more prisons, to permanently address the racial divide that is ripping the country apart. History tells us that we need to try a different approach to solving social injustice and the human toll of police violence and social discord.

We need is a new technology. For lack of a better term, I call it the technology of love. This is not romantic love or even the love a mother has for her child. Neither is this religious devotion or faith. This is love based on mutual respect and a recognition of our common humanity. It is technology because it might solve a problem, and that is what technology does.

The problem with love is that we have not treated it as technology or a process. If love is a technology, how does it work, or more accurately, how can it work? Can it be the technology that heals domestic divisions as well as international conflicts?

A theory is not a theory unless it has testable hypotheses. For example, we could test whether love technology can change the relationships between the Black community and the police. We can test whether love technology can improve relationships within families or between nations. We can even test whether love technology can be used to resolve business disputes.

In most damaged relationships there is a dominant party or the party that is the source of the problem. We might not agree that rogue police or the culture of American policing are the sources of the problem in the relationship between the Black community and the police. For argument’s sake, grant me that supposition. (It is possible that under some conditions, the roles are reversed.) Also, assume that the Black community is the victim and the less powerful of the two in the toxic relationship.

There are four basic sequential steps in this theory as applied to policing and the Black community.

Love technology starts with acknowledgment, apology, accountability by the dominant party. All of these are essential and necessary if the healing process is to succeed. The police must acknowledge they are inflicting great damage on families in the Black community with their policies and practices. The police must apologize for the damage they have done and commit to stop all such future similar actions. And the police must accept the consequences of their actions. Without acknowledgment, apology and accountability, love technology is just a pipe dream.

Secondly, the harmed party, in this case the Black community, must forgive the party doing the harm. Naturally, forgiveness cannot take place without the acknowledgment, apology and accountability by the police. To forgive without this necessary precondition would be foolish by the Black community and only encourage further abuse. Just as acknowledgment, apology and accountability are difficult pills to swallow, so too is forgiveness. Forgiveness by the Black community of a chastened police department is also a necessary condition of healing the relationship.

The third condition of my theory is that the police must forgive themselves of the harm they did to the Black community. Self-forgiveness makes no sense without the two previous steps. Without those two previous steps, self-forgiveness is just a self-excuse. Causing harm to others is damaging to the party doing the harm. Self-forgiveness is necessary before there can be self-healing. Without self-forgiveness, healing the police is impossible. Only healed police can see Black people as human and not as alien, dangerous and threatening.

The final step in this technology is for the Black community to acknowledge, apologize and be accountable for their own reactions to the harm caused by the police. Anger, hatred and violence are understandable reactions to anger, hatred and violence, but they are neither helpful to the parties nor will they result in a healthy relationship between the police and the Black community. The scars of oppression will only heal with true peace. Without this final step, the police will continue to be seen as an occupying force with bad intentions.

The symmetry in this theory is not coincidental. It is that symmetry that also makes this technology. It is not random or without structure. Love technology also requires leadership and maturity, something it seems in short supply. The main hypothesis of this theory is that if these four steps are taken — in this order — communities and relationships can heal. The technology of love is not easy to implement, but the alternative is more of the same. I think it is worth a try. Lives are at stake. Are we mature enough as a society to solve this problem? Time will tell.

Fred McKinney is the Carlton Highsmith Chair for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and director of the Peoples United Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the Quinnipiac University School of Business. He is on social media at @drfredmckinney. He is working on a book titled “A General Theory on Social Conflict Resolution and the Power of Love Technology.”