There’s a technique we use in collaborative practice called establishing the “third narrative.” It requires one to put himself or herself in the shoes of the other side, consider their points and yours, and then reach a point where one can construct a version of the events leading to the conflict that makes sense for all parties involved. I’m going to use the recent events of McKinney, Texas, that are sparking social media to prove a point.
A fight broke out at a large pool party in a quiet suburb outside of Dallas, Texas. Cops were called. At least a dozen responded. One threw a young black girl in a bikini to the ground and pinned her down by kneeling on her. When a couple of other children tried to help the young girl, the same officer pulled his gun and started chasing after said kids. The entire event was caught on video, and the cries of “racism” began. It looked good enough to catch the attention of the national media, because stories about cops mistreating black youth are the rage these days (and sadly, most of the stories are true), and the police officer who lost his cool got suspended.
As the days pass following the incident, another story emerges. This wasn’t just a “pool party.” It was a private event that quickly escalated when a group of teenagers that fashioned themselves as “party promoters” started propagating the event on social media as an event with a DJ. None of this was organized or condoned by the gated community where the incident occurred. People were being charged $15 per person to attend the promoted event. When several youth arrived, they began jumping the fence to the pool area even after being told to leave. It didn’t help that, according to one person who was a witness to the event, that the DJ “hired” for the party was playing expletive laden music at a very loud volume.
So some insults are exchanged. A fight breaks out. The cops come, and the rest is history.
So here’s the third narrative, and I’m going to see if we can’t string something that is a little bit truer to the story.
Let’s start with the party. I don’t doubt a private gathering in the community was scheduled on that day, and I don’t doubt that people outside this little gated community were invited. What I foresee happening is that one of the invitees fancied herself a party promoter, and decided to make the event bigger than it ever intended to be. The promoter also noted that there was a $15.00 fee per person for use of the pool in the homeowner’s association rules when stringing together her promotional materials, and decided to list it as “$15 per person” when she placed it on social media.
The “promoter” probably never told the person who invited her about this, but she told many of her friends, who told many of their friends, and the day of the event far more people than expected showed to the party. This is a facet of teen and young adult “parties” that has been a truism for decades; we see it play out repeatedly in movie after movie as a result. The party got out of hand quickly, and many of the neighbors in this nice gated community took great offense to someone playing loud rap music at the pool with all the dirty words that shock the old into clutching their pearls and send them screaming for the nearest fainting couch.
I don’t doubt at this point someone said something racially offensive. When you have a tense moment such as this, one can tend to speak out of character. “Go back to your Section 8 home” is an easy enough barb to hurl at someone. We know that brought anger out in someone, who decided to turn this into a physical altercation. That much is documented by photo and video evidence. Then the neighbors had enough. At this point, someone had called the cops. Whether it was due to the large amount of people present in a space where they should not have been, or otherwise, a cadre of officers showed up and demanded utter compliance from these teens.
One officer was probably already on his way to snapping when the incident occurred. Someone decided to give him some lip, and say something that wasn’t in line with his requests for complete and utter obedience to the law. That caused him to snap, charging at a young black girl, and pushing her to the ground in a control fashion. Others came in to help her, but this cop–strung in the heat of the moment with tension and finally expressing himself in a fashion far beyond that which was ever reasonable–saw these children as “threats,” and pulled his sidearm.
A teen nearby pulled out his cell phone at the moment the police officer charged the young black girl, and the entire incident sparked national attention and more cries of police racism. The teen got his attention, the news got their story of how police are racist, and the world turned to another news cycle.
That’s the beauty of the third narrative–it allows us to find ourselves in a moment of truth when we would normally be at a loss for words. I suggest you try it sometime you find yourself advocating for one position or another. McKinney, Texas is currently gripping their third narrative heavily.