Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Both Right But Everything's Wrong: Darren Wilson, Michael Brown, Race, and Police Shootings

To the surprise of very few people, a grand jury failed to return any indictments against Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed 18 year old black man, in Ferguson, MO. As has been widely reported, grand juries almost never indict police officers for shootings, for a host of reasons.

I am willing to believe the authorities that in this case, the grand jury carefully examined every piece of evidence available. I am also willing to believe that they were correctly instructed as to the law, and that a reasonable person would, given the law and the evidence available, determine that there is insufficient cause to believe that Officer Wilson committed a criminal act when he shot and killed Mr. Brown. In that sense, Officer Wilson's defenders and those who have lined up on his side (including a host of wealthy white conservative commentators) are right - within our system of criminal justice, no crime was committed here.

On the other hand, I also believe that both the shooting and the legal structures surrounding it represent a gross injustice not only for Mr. Brown and his family, but for a community of African-Americans living in Ferguson (and elsewhere). Mr. Brown was not armed, did not seek out a police officer for the purpose of attacking him, and had (so far as anyone knew at the time) committed no crime more serious than walking down the middle of a street. That anyone in such a situation should have to fear for his life gives lie to the boastful claim that America is a "free country", much less a land of equal opportunity. So while breaking windows is a terrible way to make a point, the protesters (most of whom have been peaceful) are right to voice their anger and their sense of injustice. They, too, are right.

So if both sides are right, why is everything wrong? Because we continue to ask the wrong questions. We build up a set of laws and practices and procedures for police that make it almost impossible for them to commit a crime, and then we continue to ask whether what they did was legal, as if "legal" is the highest standard. But laws are made by human beings, and can be flawed, skewed, stacked. Martin Luther King Jr. knew this well and spoke about it passionately. So did many before him. But today, we don't hear those voices much anymore.

We see the same debate taking place over immigration. The debate is about whether immigrants - 20 million, by some counts - are here in the US "legally" or not. TV pundits argue about whether President Obama had the legal justification to issue the executive orders he did. Nobody is talking about what is right.

I'm not arguing that laws are unimportant. Law that is truly fair and just and evenly applied is one of the greatest moral inventions of humankind. It holds out the promise of righting the wrongs that we have known about for as long as there has been civilization. Law promises to elevate the good over the powerful - something every civilization, in its highest moments, has sought for.

But we have made law an idol and enshrined whatever laws happen to be on the books at a given moment as the highest good. We forget that there were Jim Crow laws; that Japanese-Americans were rounded up and sent to camps in perfectly legal fashion; that only a generation or two ago, blacks and whites could not legally marry in many parts of this country. We look back on those laws now and wonder, how could we have done that? Wasn't the wrongness of those laws obvious? But apparently, it wasn't - not to the people who wrote them and lived under them and defended them at the time.

So arguing about whether something is or is not legal at a given moment in time misses the point. The overuse of force by police, while apparently legal by nearly all measures (vanishingly few cops are even tried, let alone convicted), is wrong. Racial profiling (setting aside whether that's what happened in Ferguson or not) is wrong. Looting and destroying shops because you're angry is also wrong.

As a culture we tend to turn to violence early and often as a solution to problems. Our public policies and our TV shows alike are full of attempts to force the outcome we want on the "bad guys". And we shape our laws to support the kinds of violence we want to use. On TV, this works great; in real life, much less so.

But violence itself is the problem, the question we should be asking. Why is it that the kinds of shootings we see here - police shooting unarmed, often minority, mostly poor citizens - almost never happen in other developed countries? Why do we permit our police not only to arm themselves with an array of weapons but to use them with impunity? What role should violence have in our society - when is it right to take the life of another, and when is it not? And when is violence not the answer? (hint: it very, very rarely is)

I doubt very much that any of these questions will be asked in the next few days or weeks. The protests will eventually die down and property will be put back together. Politicians and pundits will give empty speeches that accomplish nothing. Everyone will retreat back into their own corners, confident that they are right and ready for the next time when they can try to prove their rightness to others with shouting and threats and, yes, the use of force.

Is this what we would do if we actually wanted to change things? If we really wanted a society where people can walk the streets without feeling threatened? If we wanted to make sure that - "legal" or not - encounters like that between Darren Wilson and Michael Brown never happened again? Law cannot guarantee that - only we can. But that would involve setting aside our fetish of the law and our lust for force and trying something very different.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Bullying and Self-Defense for Kids: The Schools Have It All Wrong

On my Facebook feed, I found the following (posted by a prominent internet persona):

Caveat: Like all things internet, this one hasn't been verified. I don't know whether this kid's story is true or false. It was posted by a source I have otherwise found to be reliable, so I think it's likelier true than not. But ultimately, I'm not as interested in this particular story as I am about a specific aspect of it.

There's a lot about this story that rings true. Kids that "look gay" are harassed and bullied all the time. Schools frequently don't do anything about it, either because of pressure from the other parents or because the bullies are very good at not getting caught. That's one of the survival traits of a bully - the ability to sense when adults are watching and switch behavior.

The particular aspect of the story that caught my eye is in the middle:
I got 2 days out of school suspension for overcoming the bully, defending myself.
Schools obviously want to discourage fighting among their students. This is more a function of cultural behavior than anything else - where my kids go to school there are virtually no fights, because physical violence just isn't in the local culture. I'm sure that there is bullying of other kinds, some of which can be horrific. But kids hitting other kids? Not so much.

But this kid's school may well be different. And here's where the schools get themselves in trouble and end up teaching the wrong lessons. What most of us want schools to do is punish the aggressor in any physical altercation. Someone who defends themselves, within reason, should be either lightly punished or not punished at all. Personally, I'd lean towards the latter, because we want to teach kids that it's OK to defend yourself if someone attacks you. Otherwise, we're raising potential victims.

But schools don't do this - not because they don't want to, but because it's hard. Usually by the time an adult gets involved, the altercation is well underway (if not over), and there's no way of knowing who started it. Schools used to try to sort that out by interviewing both the fighters and witnesses, but discovered that that's a tricky arena. It takes real skill and judgment to take a bunch of biased witness statements and figure out what really happened.

In today's world, judgment is not encouraged. Schools prefer rules that can be uniformly applied by anybody, so there won't be any charges of bias against a particular teacher or administrator. "Zero Tolerance" policies fit this mold exactly. It doesn't matter if you're carrying stolen oxycontin or a couple of aspirin - a drug is a drug, and off to detention you go.

So if you want a universally enforceable rule on who to punish in school fights, but you can't know who the aggressor is, what do you do? Here schools adopt a rule with terrible consequences: they pin guilt on the winner of the altercation. Teachers will assume that, if you're winning the fight, you must have started it.

This is, of course, patent nonsense. Kids start fights all the time that they then lose, often badly - just search YouTube for dozens of filmed examples. Sometimes, the innocent victim really does know how to defend themselves, and does. Sometimes, the bully gets a nasty surprise.

My guess is that teachers, like most adults, have little to no experience with interpersonal violence themselves and so don't realize how silly the assumption is. Unless they have training, the most likely exposure they would have had to fighting was being a victim of bullies - in which case, they may well have been on the losing end. They may also make the mistaken assumption that violence is rational - that a bully wouldn't start a fight he couldn't win. All of this, of course, is wrong.

Unfortunately, the results of this error are that schools teach kids to be victims. If the only way I can avoid punishment by the school is to lose the fight, I have an institutional incentive not to defend myself. The authority figures around me are telling me: if you want to be a "good kid", if you want to get good recommendation letters to college and good grades and the approval of your teachers, don't fight back. Let yourself get hit, pushed, kicked, picked on. Trust the adults to deal with it.

Except, of course, that the adults don't deal with it. The story in the picture above rings true because it happens all the time. Teachers are powerless to stop bullying, and they know it. So do the bullies.

I don't have an easy solution. Allowing free-for-all combat would shift the balance of power to the strong, not necessarily the virtuous. Right now, that balance lies in the hands of the sneaky and unethical, which is probably worse. But I certainly don't think that having all kids "fight it out" is the answer.

The best answer, unfortunately, is messy. There has to be room for judgment on the part of teachers and administrators. I have many teacher friends who have seen situations where they and their colleagues know who the troublemaker is. But because of the "universal rules", the kid gets away with it time and again. And all students learn the same lesson: the one who cheats best, wins.

Readers of this blog know that I'm an ardent self-defense pacifist and a passionate believer in the use of force to defend oneself. There are thousands upon thousands of teachers, dojos, workshops, and classes all over this country teaching people how to defend themselves when they're attacked. Much of that effort involves undoing the damage of the K-12 years, where kids are methodically taught not to engage in any self-defense at all. For the sake of the kids in our schools and the adults they will become, we need to find a better way.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Post-Election Musings: Was This Really the Seinfeld Election?

It's the day after Election Day, and lots of folks are poring over the results to find meaning. Most, of course, will see what they want to see. Republicans will see this is a mandate - that the majority of the US agrees with them (whatever that means) and hates the President. Democrats will dig deeper to find rays of hope - overwhelming support for raising minimum wage laws, for example. Republicans have to decide whether they want to govern for substance and work with the President, or govern for symbols and spend two years trashing him. And everyone is looking already to 2016.

I have friends who are disappointed in yesterday's results and friends who are pleased. Some of this really is rooting for the tribal team - if you don't live in Kansas, who the governor is there doesn't really matter to you. For me, the "national scorecard" isn't very interesting for much the same reason that fantasy football isn't interesting - it's a made-up scoring system for something that doesn't really exist.

We also put FAR too much faith in the ability of any of these politicians, or all of them together, to actually make things better for the country. Does what Congress does matter? Of course. But if you think that one-party control of both chambers is going to usher in the new Golden Age, you need a reality check. Congress' ability (with or without the President) to affect things right now is pretty minimal.

[And yes, I know some folks will offer counter-examples - the Federal Minimum Wage being one. But those are exceptions, and most of the time these days Congress doesn't act anyway.]

At their best, elections serve as a kind of national conversation - a big (if imperfect and messy) discussion about the stuff that matters. The fact that we have to conduct those conversations through politicians, PACs, and media outlets is frustrating, but it can also be helpful. Ross Perot's surprisingly good third-party run at the White House in 1992 helped put the budget deficit and the federal debt on the map as an issue. Reagan's 1980 campaign was about America's place in the world and general vision for its future. Obama's 2008 run was fueled by a broad sense of post-racial and even post-partisan optimism (both now dashed hopes, which helps explain his approval ratings).

Midterm elections are usually NOT these kinds of conversations, although they can be. In 1994 the Republicans ran on the Contract with America, which put forward a broad set of ideas about what government should or shouldn't do. But that was the exception - usually midterms are about jockeying for power.

In this sense, 2014 was not the Seinfeld election (an "election about nothing", for those who don't get the reference), but it was the latest in a series. There were few if any defining issues - mostly just the same motley set of divides that we've been fighting over for years.

More important to me than what the candidates and PACs did talk about was what they didn't. Minimum wage laws are important, but that's a small stand-in for a much larger issue: the fast-growing and massive inequality in both income and wealth among Americans. That's a serious issue that shouldn't be a partisan one; most thoughtful conservatives I know (and yes, for my liberal friends - there are such people) don't want to live in a Russian-style oligarchy any more than anybody else. But nobody wants to talk about it.

Global climate change has also been buried as a live issue. Here we've so tribalized the issue that we are failing to ask the questions that need to be asked: how do we adapt to a changing planet? On the local level, coastal communities are already doing so, often in broadly bipartisan ways. But nationally our collective head is stuck deep in the sand while otherwise-grown people scream at each other.

I'm sure we can think of a few more such issues - things that broadly affect everybody in significant, even life-altering ways. Ebola isn't one of them; neither are Benghazi, ISIS, or most of the other claptrap that dominates the daily headlines. This isn't just the media's fault; it's their job to cover day-to-day news, to focus on what's changed since yesterday. But somehow, somewhere, we need to talk about the big stuff. I have no faith in either political party's ability or desire to do so. Somehow, the rest of us will have to figure out how without them.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Administrative Growth: More Complicated Than It Appears

I've written before about "administrative bloat" - the ongoing complaint (often from faculty, sometimes from state legislators) that universities have added too many administrators in recent years and not enough faculty. There are numbers to support this contention, so the general trend is not in doubt. The real question is why this is happening.

Faculty of a certain bent are wont to attribute this to the general greed and tribal affiliation of administrators - that administration breeds more administration and that administrators don't care about the faculty. While good for whipping up the masses, this argument lacks much in the way of evidence. Yes, there are administrators here and there who see themselves as a breed apart from faculty and who take an adversarial position. But a great many don't, and many are more than happy to add more faculty lines when they can find the resources to do so.

My contention has been that there are forces outside of higher education entirely that help to drive the growth in administration. Today's Chronicle has an excellent example of just such a force:
Overseeing Sex-Assault Cases Is Now a Full-Time Job
Hiring people to take the lead on Title IX compliance and put together good, effective responses to sexual assault cases that protects both victims and accused is an important thing. In today's climate, with folks on both sides lawyering up, it's probably a necessary step to get out in front of the issue. But it also costs money. That's one more administrator on many campuses - money that could, under other circumstances, fund a faculty line.

So to my faculty colleagues - please, the next time you get the urge to complain about administrative bloat, look carefully at who's being hired to do what. Where there are positions your university really doesn't need, make that argument. But don't paint administrative motives too broadly. Sometimes, those new administrative positions can help make the world a better place.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Why I'm Not Watching Football Anymore

I have been, for most of my life, a football fan. Specifically, I have been a fan of the NFL, and of the Pittsburgh Steelers in particular. I grew up in Pittsburgh in the 1970s when the Chuck Noll-led dynasty was legendary. I can't not root for the Steelers - it's programmed into my autonomous responses by now, like Pavlov's dogs.

I had less interest in college football until I attended Ohio State for graduate school. Even there, I never went to a game, and I've remained diffident about big-time college football. Yes, I have rooted for the Buckeyes, but as a lifelong faculty member and administrator in higher education I have some sense of how much sports cost, how few programs actually make money, and how much other people get rich off the backs of the players and the rabid loyalty of the fans. I've blogged about this before (here, here, and here). Suffice it to say that what interest I had in BCS football has been waning for some time.

But now I find that I just can't watch the sport at any level anymore. I've come to this realization after a long accumulation of issues that just won't go away. The science on concussions, which started to get significant public attention a few years ago, is stark: a LOT of football players, especially NFL players who play for a number of years, are essentially damaged for life. Some of them go on to damage the lives of others around them. And while I appreciate that the NFL is putting a small portion of its vast wealth into studying the issue, I don't think there's a solution short of "don't play football". Maybe someone will invent the miracle helmet that can change the laws of physics, but so long as our brains can move within our skulls I think the problem is going to persist.

Then there is the issue of domestic violence, brought to light this season in a couple of very high-profile cases. An op-ed in the NYT recently - written by somebody who is still a genuine fan of the game - had a poignant take on the issue of violence and pro football. These men engage in violence - controlled and structured, true, but violence nevertheless - for a living. For many, that has an effect on the psyche just as it has an effect on the brain - and there are complex interactions than can make it worse.

Then in this past weekend's paper came this story about injuries in the NFL. Across the 32 team rosters there are roughly 1700 players (some proportion of which don't see a lot of action - kickers, third-stringers, special teams players, etc.) By this point in the season, less than 1/2 way through, some 200 of those players have been injured severely enough to be taken out for 6 weeks or more. Injuries include torn-up knees and muscles, broken legs and collarbones, strains and sprains of all kinds - and, of course, a few severe concussions. By this point, roughly 1/8 of the workforce has gotten hurt. Short of soldiers in a very active war zone, I don't know a lot of professions with that kind of casualty rate.

At some point, I just can't watch this anymore. I still appreciate the supreme skill and artistry of the game played at the highest level. Some of what these players do is remarkable to behold. But the cost which that artistry is exacting on those same players is nearing the horrific. That knowledge sits in my head, demanding attention, any time I try to watch a game. I just can't enjoy it anymore, knowing that I may well be watching the ruining of another man's future life for my entertainment.

Let me be clear - this is a personal conclusion, which so far as I'm concerned affects only me. I have lots of friends who are still fans of the game at both the college and pro levels, and I don't ask that they change their habits or demand that they think the way I do. I wouldn't dream of calling for a boycott on watching football, nor would I make the argument that football should somehow be banned. Making such arguments would be an attempt to bully or harangue my views onto others. I'm not interested in that.

So if you enjoy football, great - I hope you watch for as long as it brings you enjoyment. But as for me - I've had enough. All the damage being done - voluntary or not, consciously chosen or not - is just too much. I have plenty of other things demanding my time. Time to try a football-free fall.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Guns and Safety: The Missing Human Dimension

A case that (on its surface) pits free speech against gun rights has been making the rounds. A female scholar invited to speak at Utah State University cancelled her appearance there after receiving death threats. In explanation she cited Utah laws allowing people to carry guns on campus, and the campus police's inability to regulate the presence of guns at her talk. She also criticized the university for not doing enough to insure her safety.

Since the speaker fits the profile of the Left (a feminist scholar engaged in cultural critique of misogyny in video-game culture) and the thing she complains about is one of the banner issues for many on the Right (the right to carry firearms freely), this pretty much guarantees this story plenty of airplay. And while there will be some thoughtful discussions, for the most part this will generate a great deal more heat than light in the coming days.

In an effort to promote the former and try to avoid the latter, I want to pick up on one particular aspect of the larger argument here: the discussion about guns and personal safety. This is a subject on which I have written quite a few times in the past (do a search for Gun Control or Stand Your Ground on this blog and you'll find plenty of references). Readers will note that I am not a purist on the issue, insofar as I have written that there are circumstances under which the carrying or employment of personal firearms can protect someone.

But here is where a dose of wisdom from my academic field - the study of conflict at the international level - comes in handy. Because "security" is really two things: whether you are secure, and whether you feel secure. It is both objective and perceptual. And these two aspects are not at all the same thing.

Objective security is often knowable only after the fact: you either are attacked or you aren't. If no one attacks you, you are objectively secure. However, you may not feel secure. If you feel that an attack is imminent or even possible, you may perceive yourself as being insecure even when, at that particular moment, you are not being attacked. And that's where the trouble lies.

Advocates of concealed-carry or open-carry rights talk a lot about how guns make people more secure. Setting aside the tactical question of whether, and how often, having a gun will actually help you protect yourself, I have no doubt that for these folks, carrying a weapon makes them feel more secure. So they're being sincere when they talk about guns increasing security - meaning their feelings of security.

The problem is that when you carry a gun, you make people around you feel less secure. You present yourself as a potential threat for lethal violence. When you carry a weapon - especially if it's openly visible - people are likely to assume that it's loaded and that you're willing to use it. If I don't have a gun - or, for that matter, even if I do - that may decrease my security substantially insofar as I am now aware that there is someone in my vicinity who is both willing and able to kill me.

In my field, this is called the security dilemma - efforts to increase my security decrease the overall security of the system, and may make me less secure in the long run. This dynamic is just as real at the interpersonal level as it is among nations. We just don't understand it very well in our individual lives.

Ardent gun-rights supporters tend to respond to this observation with, "well, they shouldn't feel that way" - or "well, I have a right to carry my gun anyway". At that point, it becomes clear that you don't really care about security - yours or anyone else's. You're carrying the gun because it makes you feel powerful, or because it's a part of your identity, or because you feel the need to show "them" (whoever "them" is) what you can or can't do. It's an ego thing.

People who are genuinely interested in security should be able to realize that security is not only individual, it's collective. That when one individual carries a gun, it make lower the level of security in the room. Just ask John Crawford III how that works. Funny - I haven't noticed any NRA members picketing because his 2nd amendment rights were violated.

So if you have genuine concerns about security, that's fine - take the legal steps you feel are necessary to make yourself feel more secure. But recognize that by so doing, you may be making everyone else around you less secure. And while that may not be illegal (in Utah or elsewhere), it is reprehensible. Perhaps what we need to seek is not so much personal security as mutual respect and concern for our neighbors. That's a value I would think everyone (Red, Blue, Purple, or otherwise) could get behind.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Student Safety and Assault Prevention: There's Got To Be a Better Way

There's a lot of attention these days to the topic of sexual assaults on college campuses. This has been a good thing in that institutions and students are becoming much more aware of the issues. I hope that all of this attention will reduce the number of assaults, sooner rather than later. Young women (and men) deserve a college experience free from fear for their personal safety.

I have blogged on these issues several times, including a response a couple of years ago to a highly-publicized case from Amherst College. More recently there was the hashtag battle between #Notallmen and #Yesallwomen, which served to illustrate some of the battle lines in the ongoing struggle to redefine the culture of sexuality and relationships on our campuses. This is a fluid discussion in which there are stops and starts, advances and retreats. Overall I think progress has been made, but there are still plenty of challenges ahead.

One of those challenges is the tendency for people who are really on the same side of the issue to get in fights with each other. Nowhere is this more apparent to me than the continuing battle between what might be called the "don't blame the victim" perspective and the self-defense perspective. An article in today's Inside Higher Ed showcases an excellent case of this:
U. of Wisconsin faces criticism over list of safety tips
Because I work in higher education but am also involved in the self-defense community, I can see both sides of this issue. The "don't blame the victim"/sexual assault awareness folks have a point: historically, rape and sexual assault have been protected by a culture that tolerated arguments such as "she was wearing X" or "she was flirting" or "she was drunk" or "she had it coming, what did she expect to happen when Y". Many a rapist has walked free because our culture took these kinds of arguments seriously. That is changing, which is good. But these kinds of arguments still need to be rendered entirely off-limits and illegitimate, much as we have done with "boys will be boys" and drunk driving.

So I understand both the legitimacy of concerns about victim-blaming, and the sensitivity to the issue. This can be a very touchy subject because real victim-blaming has been used to mask and protect rapists in much the same way that the Confederate battle flag was used to mask and rally racists in the 1950s and 1960s.

The problem is that this sensitivity is being turned against a different point of view altogether - the self-defense community. From the self-defense perspective, nothing that was on the now-removed U. Wisconsin website was problematic or controversial. Advice about awareness ("keep your head on a swivel") and forethought ("don't look like a victim", "make yourself a hard target") are stock in trade for a community of people who, in my experience, are both extremely well-meaning and extremely knowledgeable about what they deal in.

These are folks who study the problem (interpersonal violence) closely and understand it in ways the rest of us don't. Their advice is practical and effective. And many of them dispense this advice for free out of a sense of wanting to help people lead lives free from fear and victimization. In other words, they're on the same side of the issue as their critics - both sides want the incidence of sexual assault and rape to be reduced to zero.

Certainly there are elements of context which can help. Sexual assault awareness campaigns often point out - quite rightly - that the strong majority of such assaults are committed not by strangers attacking while you are out walking in the dark, but by acquaintances who are known to the victim and who gain the victim's trust first. That kind of assault calls for a whole different set of responses, chief among them teaching college men not to engage in assault and rape (and their peers to punish them when they do).

That said, there are sexual assaults and rapes by strangers, just as there are muggings and robberies by strangers. The kind of advice that the UW police put out is standard anti-mugging advice, which nobody questions. And while we also want to engage in other strategies that reduce the incidence of such stranger-based attacks, it makes sense to educate students about how to avoid them. With other kinds of crimes, this is not a controversial idea - but then, other kinds of crimes don't have the history that rape does.

This seems to be the real crux of the matter: how can we encourage women (and men too!) to learn to be smart and take basic steps to protect themselves without sending the message that we are blaming victims for what happens to them? This is a political and linguistic problem, not a real contradiction. There is no logical way to get from the statement "I am learning self-defense in order to better protect myself and my friends" to "it's my fault if someone else attacks me". In my field we call this a conflict of perception rather than a conflict of interests.

There's a side point here that illustrates the gap in perceptions and cultural misunderstanding between these two communities. It shows up nicely in this quote from the Inside Higher Ed article linked above:
Referring to the post's suggestion that a student should keep his or her "head on a swivel," one Jezebel commenter asked, "So literally live every moment like I'm an Army Ranger deployed to Afghanistan?"
I have heard this same reaction from some folks I've trained in self-defense. They take advice about awareness to mean that they need to be afraid all the time in order to protect themselves. That's a real turn-off, and I can understand why untrained civilians would run away from that kind of "advice".

But the truth is very different. I do live with my "head on a swivel" most of the time, in that I try to be aware of the people around me at all times - where they are, which direction they're moving in, and some basic impression of who they are and what they're up to. The fact that I do this - and the fact that I have some physical training in the martial arts to receive and counter attacks - means that I am not afraid. Awareness doesn't create fear, it dispels it. It is part of a package of living in confidence that, I think, is a goal shared by nearly everybody.

But I also get that, until you have undergone some training and experienced this kind of confidence, it's counterintuitive. People outside that circle mistake awareness for hyper vigilance and decide they don't want any part of it. And because it is an experience that is difficult to convey solely with words, the words that the self-defense community (including the UW police department) uses are often inadequate to the task.

This is where we need something else I've written about recently: mutual respect. Rather than attacking each other, I hope that the self-defense community and the sexual assault awareness and advocacy community can come together for an open and honest dialogue that starts from a simple premise: they are both on the same side and they both want the same thing. Both sides need to understand the other better, and both need to recognize that the other has something important to bring to the table. If that happens, perhaps we can overcome this particular challenge and find a way to incorporate the wisdom of self-protection into our larger societal response to sexual assault and violence.