I  learned that the culture bump process isn’t about changing anybody’s mind – including mine– its about broadening my own and hearing somebody else. This process makes me look at the way I think and the way I believe which is helpful. I feel better.

This is a statement from an individual who analyzed his furious disagreement with President Obama’s response to a 2009 incident between the Cambridge Police and an African American professor.    As a result, he concluded that it was valuable to view a political disagreement as a culture bump – not only because he felt relief from his anger but it also allowed him to have a different kind of conversation with friends with different political views.

Below is his step by step process.   His words are italicized and in red while the instructions for each of the eight culture bump steps are in black.

Notice how his initial outrage and resentment of President Obama shifts with each culture bump step into a deeper understanding of himself and into a clarification of his own mindset – leading to a new freedom from his initial fury.

An Analysis of a Culture Bump with President Barak Obama

 The first step is to pinpoint the culture bump– in other words something that catches my attention because it is different from what I would do or say –

  • Obama knew nothing about the situation (the Cambridge Police and Professor Henry Louis Gates) and spouted off about race

Step two is to describe what the other person(s) did or said. (Note: He found the actual video of Obama speaking of the incident and quotes it exactly.)

July 23, 2009.

Obama said, “I don’t know all the facts not having been there, but the police acted stupidly. What I think we know separate and apart from this incident is there is a long history in this country of African-Americans and Latinos being stopped by police disproportionaly. That’s just a fact.

Step three is to describe what I did.  

I listened to him.

Step four is to list my emotions that I felt at that moment. 

I felt shocked, cheated, angry, furious, betrayed, I felt accused unjustly – that he intentionally used race to divide us people. I think he did it intentionally – bring up race to keep Black and White people separated so he could get more votes – get or maintain power

Step five is to find the universal situation.  (Sometimes this can be found by asking examining what I think their motivation was.  Or in this case, looking at the role of the individual with whom I have the bump and what they were doing in that role.)

He was the President of the United States and he was talking to the people of the United States about a sensitive or touchy situation.

Step six is to describe what I would do or would expect others to do in that universal situation.

(Since I am not President, I thought about presidents who had been in the same situation and their response…I recalled Reagan, Bush and Kennedy)

When I think about Reagan, Bush and Kennedy, they always talked about us being one body – the American people – We were in this together – not separate.

Step seven is to list the qualities that I feel that action demonstrates. 

When I think about Reagan, Bush and Kennedy talking about us being one body – the American people, all of us in this together, I feel safe – a part of the American spirit, being really proud to be an American.

 Step eight is to ask or think about how those qualities are demonstrated by other people.  How do other folks feel about feeling safe or being part of the American spirit?

I had a conversation with a friend who voted for Obama – I discovered that I had some serious thoughts other than just being mad at the guy. My friend and I had a much farther reaching conversation about politics than we had ever had. –– I recognized her sincere desire to bring people together – this conversation felt good – even though we didn’t agree about everything. I also learned that the culture bump process isn’t about changing anybody’s mind – including mine– its about broadening my own and hearing somebody else. This process makes me look at the way I think and the way I believe which is helpful. I feel better.

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