This week marks the ninth week of protests across the country as demonstrators demand tangible changes to the racial divides that have plagued the U.S. since its inception. Along with calls for equality have been calls to defund police, who are often seen as enforcing laws unequally.
However, Pastor Miles McPherson said accepting people's differences needs to be the goal, rather than choosing sides, like pro- or anti-police.
The NFL player-turned-pastor's 2018 book The Third Option: Hope For a Racially Divided Nation has regained national attention as people look for ways to sort through ethnic, racial, and other cultural differences that are tearing at the seams of America's social stability.
"The third option, which is what the book is about: how do we honor and give value to what we have in common? We have more similarities than differences," McPherson told Cheddar.
McPherson, the pastor of Rock Church in San Diego, California, said that there are ways for people to avoid offensive "blind spots" they may have in order to improve relations among people with varying backgrounds.
"If we can come to the table and talk about the things that we agree on, start with those things versus focusing on the differences we have, we can make more headway," he explained.
Racial division in America is practically embedded in the genetic makeup of the country, but for McPherson, the path to understanding isn't in avoiding differences but embracing and respecting them.
"If you have people in your life that are of a different ethnicity than you, different culture, the best thing to do is to sit down and ask if there are things about you that are offensive that you don't know about," he said.
For McPherson, the father and son of police officers, improving relationships between communities and police departments is also important because he understands how mischaracterizations based on job association or racial makeup can cause even more division.
"I think it's very important for us to not categorize a group of people as all bad or all good," he said. "There are good cops and bad cops."
Perhaps the most critical point for social progression in America, according to McPherson, is allowing people to "make mistakes" as we're "all on a journey" to understanding and accepting our differences.
"If we can give each other that grace, we can get further down the road," he said.