Vertical thinking— disguised this time as the pseudo-theoretical Ferguson Effect—is once again blurring the Post-Racial American debate as proponents of ham-fisted shock troops policing through communities of color attempt to send followers of the Black Lives Matter movement scurrying back to a minimized existence with tails between legs.

Unfortunately Americans  seem to often fall for this diversion.

The believers in this effect,which is named after the city where an unarmed Michael Brown’s death by a policeman’s bullet last year resulted in a nationwide protest against police brutality, say the Black Lives Matter movement has led to two sets of consequences—the reticence of police officers to effectively control communities of African descent, followed by an increase in violent Black-on-Black crime, including murders.

Or put more bluntly: we don’t know how to act. therefore, we need the police to save us from ourselves.

I’m not going to use this post to debate murder statistics since my thoughts wouldn’t change whether or not black on black crime rates have increased. Besides, I’ve covered that topic in the past.

I want to focus on how vertical thinking not only maintains the status quo of black marginalization, but also how this sort of thinking can kill people.

To feel where I’m coming from, you need to envision each problem a person experiences as a vertical structure.

Let’s say you’re hungry, and I respond to your problem by giving you a sandwich. I’ve solved your problem right?

Well perhaps – assuming your only problem was hunger.

But let’s say your hunger was accompanied by other vertical structures such as poverty, a lack of understanding about what wealth is and a skills deficiency to create the kind of wealth which would enable you to eat.

Giving you a sandwich in this case, regardless of how noble my intentions are, accomplishes only one thing— addressing your hunger problem for today only.

And that’s the danger of vertical thinking and vertical problem solving. Resolving complex problems requires addressing multiple verticals, which means you need to think horizontally and across all relevant vertical structures.

Vertical problem-solving has many fans, armed with good and bad intentions, and equipped with a conflicting array of political ideologies.

But simply addressing crime in black communities as a single issue of whether or not police should apply a racially-biased, full-court press is the textbook definition of vertical thinking, which can be deadly.

Many verticals define the current state of African descendant communities including misguided social policies, lack of economic opportunities, institutional racism as well as a pervasive slave mentality among many community members. Anyone who is truly serious about addressing violence in our communities needs to think about this problem horizontally…

song currently stuck in my head: “shelly’s world” – oscar peterson trio

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