I rolled into Aspen, Colorado in May 2015, my Civic coupe packed to the ceiling with my personal belongings. When I stepped outside to breathe in my new home, the mountain air felt cool and refreshing.
Among the goals and activities for the Academy were: “acquainting participants with the programs and problems of the community; stimulating their interest in community activities and encouraging their active participation; educate them about wide variety of community resources; help them connect with one another; and giving participants valuable personal leadership tools….”
Building empathy is one of the most difficult tasks communities face. Simply put, we’re often not programmed for it. Humans have spent the vast majority of their millennia here on Earth in tightly-knit communities where social norms and even survival frequently depended on us making quick judgments about those around us, in order to sort individuals into our “in-group” or an “out-group”. This “tribalism”, however, is not simply based on racial, ethnic, religious, or linguistic divides. It also plays out in our (relatively) much more diverse and integrated modern-day communities. And few issues in urban American communities divide us more than the fault lines around law enforcement. To some, police and sheriff’s officials embody the best values of our communities: security, order, and community involvement. To others, they represent the remnants of our country’s centuries-long infatuation with racial oppression.