Andy Wojtowski

PODCAST: George Floyd, commentary from Dr. Stephen Crawford

For this podcast episode, Reuben does a one-on-one interview with Structure Tech’s business coach, Dr. Stephen Crawford. Dr. Crawford has been conducting weekly team huddles for his coaching clients every Friday morning, and he conducted a special meeting on May 29th to focus on George Floyd, protests, riots, racism, and advice to business owners.

We’ve asked Dr. Crawford to share his insight for this podcast episode. We’ll return to our regular home inspection topics on our next episode.



Dr. Stephen Crawford with Experience Leadership is a founding partner of the John Maxwell Team. For the last fifteen years, he has been developing and training thousands of leaders seeking to improve their leadership skills and increase their impact on the world.


The following is a transcription from an audio recording. Although the transcription is largely accurate, in some cases it may be slightly incomplete or contain minor inaccuracies due to inaudible passages or transcription errors.

Reuben Saltzman: Hi, I’m Reuben Saltzman with Structure Tech Home Inspections and we’re doing a special podcast episode today. We’re not having Tessa or Bill on the episode because I just wanted to have more of an intimate, one-on-one conversation with Dr. Stephen Crawford. Stephen is our business coach here at Structure Tech. Stephen and I have been working together for many years, and we get together every week and Stephen gives me a ton of advice. He is a very integral person with the entire hiring process here at Structure Tech and I don’t know where our business would be without all of his sage advice every single week. Throughout this COVID-19 thing, Stephen has been holding weekly huddles for his clients, part of the John Maxwell coaching team. Am I saying that right, Stephen?

Dr. Stephen Crawford: Yep, that’s about right. Yep.

DSC: Okay. And he’s been having these weekly huddles for all of us, and today… Today is Friday, May 29th, when we’re recording this. Stephen changed that weekly huddle a little bit and made it… He shortened it and it’s really to talk about what’s going on in Minnesota right now, in Minneapolis, with George Floyd. And Stephen, I felt like you had a really good message. I really appreciated your perspective on what you had to say. So I wanted to just have you on as an impromptu podcast guest to share your background and your thoughts and your insight, ’cause I think it’s powerful.

DSC: No, I appreciate that. And I just want to thank Reuben, and the team at Structure Tech are just incredible to work with and just kind of a fantastic set of minds over there that are thinking about every part of what they do. And I believe that part of business is being socially conscious and socially aware of what it means to move things forward. The reason I do what I do is because I firmly believe that business is a force for good and that’ll go into a little bit of my story, because we’re all a collection of stories, right?

DSC: My origins, I hail from Chicago, Illinois, and I grew up on the South side where the events that took place, I’ve seen witnessed over and over again. As a young kid, as a citizen, I was just, I shared with a group this morning that with me growing up, we were taught very clearly to avoid confrontations with law enforcement, because we never knew what they would do. They’re unpredictable and we had a really interesting fear and probably an unhealthy fear and reverence for law enforcement growing up where I grew up.

DSC: I remember in high school, we had went to Morgan Park High School and they basically had, for the first time, they were installing a African American principal. And there was probably about a 100, 120 white students still at that school out of close to 2,500, and every few minutes another one would pull the fire alarm in protest, and so we would all head outside and… You know, for I mean a kid in school, this is just time out of class. I mean this is fun. So we get kids going to the basketball court. We get kids going to the tennis court and hanging out there. We got kids climbing on the trees and kind of sitting in the trees.

DSC: And by the third, I think it was about the third period, it was about the fourth time we had been exited out of the building. We came out to an entire police force, as if we were the problem. And we knew who was the problem. It was widely reported amongst the students who was doing it and why they were doing it in protest, but for some reason the white kids that were actually pulling the fire alarm weren’t the target of the police. They were frustrated that they had to continue to keep coming out.

DSC: So they began to kind of rough people up. And as they began to do that, the kids got agitated and maybe they were using some abusive language, different things like that, but I… They start yanking kids out of the trees and arresting kids. And I’ll never forget when they pulled down a young lady by the name of Chrissa Parker, they pulled her down and one of them hit her in the forehead with his billy club. She was not moving. She looked unconscious. But rather than getting her medical attention, they threw her in the back of the paddy wagon with the rest of the people that they were taking down to the station. And we were let out of school, we went home. For some kids it was just another day off, but it was a constant reminder. We weren’t horrified. We weren’t surprised by the actions of the police. This was considered normal in the way we understood our relationship and the dynamic with the police. And that is so consistent with not just the city of Chicago, but many communities of color with the police.

DSC: In 2018, there were over 1300 killings due to the hands of the police, and in 2019 the same thing. There has been almost 500 so far this year. People that have been killed at the hands of the police. Many of these, major criminals, but over half of these a reported as unarmed people. And so I am shocked and frustrated about what happened with George Floyd. But when you’ve seen case after case of police brutality and if there’s no video camera, there’s always a justification, “Well, maybe they moved. Maybe they attacked the police. Maybe this, maybe that.” It takes this type of footage to touch the consciousness of many people.

DSC: And so, I guess for many people in communities of color, we’ve known this, we’ve said this, and every time there’s a situation, a lot of people of color will say, “Well, black lives matter is not about other people’s lives don’t.” It’s the fact that many in the law enforcement community treat them as if they don’t. They’re dehumanizing, very much like you see the officers in this situation were willing to put their knees on the neck and now they have video footage of the other side, but there was still others on their knees in the back.

DSC: This is a man restrained and yet treated like cattle, treated like an animal. And this whole dehumanization process from law enforcement to communities of color has been so consistent and so pervasive. It’s just interesting that race and cultural issues is not something that I talk about often. And so I’m not surprised that this happened. I’m more curious on how, why this is triggering communities, not just of color, but all over the country and all over the world internationally on kind of seeing the injustice of this. Because the only difference between this situation and hundreds of others just like it that happen every year, is this one was caught on tape. And so, I fear more than anything that we’ll try to crucify these four cops as if they are anomalies, as if this is unique and they’ll get the maximum penalties.

DSC: And I definitely believe that justice should be done, they should be dealt with, and this is a criminal offense, and they should be criminalized for this, and treated like criminals in this. But to crucify them and use that to appease our conscience, as if it doesn’t speak to a much larger problem between law enforcement and communities of color, I think would be a disservice. And so there has to be some type of conversation, and because I am fully committed to this idea that businesses should be a force for good, I think it is up to business leaders. I think it’s up to leaders of all, whether it be faith leaders, community leaders, business leaders, that should be speaking up and starting conversations to eliminate the separation between the different ethnic hues that allow for the assumption of guilt whenever a person of color is either abused, arrested, or there’s a presumption of guilt. And there’s a presumption of innocence by the dominant culture upon police and people of authority. And I think that’s why so many people are shocked. There’s this presumption of guilt by people of color, and the presumption of innocence and peace-keeping and orderliness that is inferred directly to the law enforcement. This breaks with the narrative. And I think that’s why it’s so shocking to people.

RS: And, so you talk about how it seems as though they may end up being crucified. If that didn’t happen, what do you think would happen throughout the city?

DSC: Well, I think people that are truly aware of the issues are not just outraged, they’ve been outraged for a long time, almost to the point where we’re out outraged of these things. We’re used to police officers getting off after very clear evidence. In the Eric Garner case in New York, they choked the man out to death and he kept yelling, “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe.” And they continue to choke him, and he died. And it took five years and years of investigations before those officers were even released from duty, no criminal prosecution. And if any other citizen had done that, it would have been considered murder. I think this is different. I think the awareness and the national spotlight is of such that if they don’t take this to trial and criminal prosecution take place, that we will be at a very, very different element. And people that are looting and causing fires, I think, are different from the people that are out protesting. And what the challenge with it is more protests will take place. And so when you see the city on fire, my church is right down in the area in the hot zone. So I’m fully aware, as looking at the images, I know exactly where they are ’cause I’m there all the time, every week just about. Looking at what’s going on down there, it’s kind of a surreal experience. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been to that Target, I’ve been to that Cub that have now been looted and pretty much destroyed.

DSC: And it’s interesting that in that context, in the hotbed of all of that activity, what we have is we have opportunists that are jumping in to take advantage of the chaos due to the disruption in society. Because the social consciousness is awakened within people to say, “Something’s not right here. Something doesn’t make sense.” This is probably the first time I’ve ever seen, and I have seen officers, and my brother is a Chicago police officer, so you know I… But I’ve seen tons of officers come out publicly to denounce, and we’ve never seen that in any other case before. So I think when you ask the question, “What will happen?” Well, if the entire… If the police unions are breaking ranks and saying, “No, this is not right.” If commissioners all over the country are breaking ranks to say, “No, this is not right.” And then, every police officer that’s getting in front of a camera says, “Absolutely not. This is hideous.” They’re actually using the terms like, “This is murder.” If something like that they were to be let off, I think the outrage would be of such that there would be no containing the amount of energy that would take place based upon that. But I’m fully convinced that they will face prosecution.

DSC: I do have the concern, which is the concern that they positioned the… the state of Florida, when Treyvon Martin was killed. Now here’s a young man just walking to his home from 7-Eleven, drinking his drink, drinking his pop. And he’s accosted by a man who had hopes for law enforcement, wasn’t in the law enforcement. And he basically just began to harass him. Well, they ended up in a struggle and he ended up killing the young man, for walking in his own neighborhood. I mean, just makes no sense. Senseless death. But the prosecutor charged him with first degree murder, which you have to and prove the intent for premeditated willful taking of a life. And he was let off because the charges were too harsh. The jury convened and said he didn’t intend to kill him. And so, I think they have to be extremely careful with how they charge these men. Because if they charge them with first degree, you cannot prove the… Proving the intent of a police officer, pre-meditated and willfully took someone’s life would be very difficult for a jury to convict. So I just, I think there need to be some wisdom in how they approach this and how they charge this case.

RS: Well, that’s a really good point you bring up, Stephen. Because I’ve seen that repeated over and over, that the police are condemning this. And normally, they’re just silent. A silent wall, “We don’t know what happened. We weren’t there,” but that’s the one thing that feels very different about all of this. It’s just pretty much universal. Everybody says, “This is absolutely wrong.” So Stephen, I guess, just the last point. I wanna be respectful of your time here. I know [laughter] I snuck attacked you into doing this.

DSC: No problem.

RS: What would your advice be to business leaders? And I mean, I’m asking you selfishly for myself, but for anybody else listening to this, too. What would you say to them?

DSC: Well, I would say, let’s set a tone. And I shared this morning, there’s a very famous, very popular speaker on the issues on diversity that… She goes to colleges and universities all over the place and she asked the question, “Well, would any of the white people in here want to be able to live as a person and with the treatment and the perspective of being Black? Would you want to trade… How many people would willfully trade to accept that for the rest of your life?” And no one raised their hands. And then she says, “No, no, no. I really wanna be clear about this. I really want you to raise your hand, let me know who would be willing to trade places with the treatment in Blacks of this country?” And no one stood up, no one raised their hand. Then she says, “Then that means you know what’s going on and you’re unwilling to do anything about it. And you’re not only silent, but you actually deny the experience of African-Americans as a claim they’re treated differently within the society. Because if you wouldn’t willfully embrace their treatment for the rest of your life, you know something is wrong.”

DSC: And so, I would say that leaders have to set the tone. We have to communicate openly and honestly. I’m not a huge person to say, “You go out, and you just, regardless of qualifications, you hire people of color in order to make your organization more diverse.” I don’t believe in that. But I do believe that sometimes it takes extra effort to create stronger relationships with people from different cultures, so that we don’t become quick to presume. The reason I mentioned earlier that the prejudicial approach and the presumption of criminality within the African-American community and the assumption of innocence on the side of the law enforcement, that’s a pre-judgment based upon lack of information. If I don’t have enough information around people that are different from me… I grew up in Chicago. We didn’t meet a lot of Asian people. So when I saw Asians, I related to Bruce Lee and the Chinese martial arts films that I would see on Saturday mornings. And so every Asian at that point was Chinese.

DSC: Well, there’s a lot of beautiful Asians that aren’t Chinese. You know, there’s Filipino, there’s Korean, there’s Japanese, there’s all types of Asians in different countries. And I can see the differences now, because I have willfully engaged in Asian cultures. And I’ve been to India. I’ve been to China now. I’ve been to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. I’ve been to South Korea and Singapore. So now I’ve seen the world a little bit differently and so I have a different perspective, and as I brought my perspective, I see differences where I would ordinarily, my prejudice would cause me to uniformly put everybody in the same category. I think until we start breaking the barriers and having conversations intentionally and strategically, and as leaders setting the tone that racism shouldn’t be tolerated, but it’s not the racism that’s so dangerous because the overt racists are rare and few. It’s the subtleties of the prejudice that too quickly permits or turns a blind eye to some of the destructive forces, and the instruments of hate and race that are used within many of these institutions, like law enforcement and many times, it’s the political realm and different things like that.

DSC: So being intentional about bringing that voice and setting the tone, and people respect… As leaders, people respect leaders, if you set a tone, it influences people’s position and decisions all the time. And I think leaders have to be more aware of the influence they have, and not say, “That’s not my fight.” It’s all of our fight. We’re all a part of this together.

RS: Well, Stephen, thank you for this extra little coaching session that I tricked you into having with me personally. I’ll be sharing this with everybody else that I possibly can and I’ll be following your advice internally at my own company. So I really appreciate it. Thanks for carving time out of your day to do this.

DSC: Hey, my pleasure. And thanks for taking the leadership to add to the dialogue. I really appreciate that, thank you.

RS: Alright, well, I’ll talk to you very soon, Stephen.