Announcing "We Are Human" Campaign Series

Author // Niobe Way Categories // Member Blogs


Dear Friends:

As evident by continuing reports of officer shootings of community members and assaults on police officers by community members, there is a dire need for stronger police/community relations across the United States. Community policing, a philosophy that emerged in the 1980’s, holds the potential to significantly improve relations and promising new steps are being explored. Yet, despite having been around for over three decades, identifying specific approaches that would truly diminish the mistrust between communities and police has continued to prove elusive. This is likely because it requires addressing the underlying societal stereotypes and implicit bias that are at the root of the mistrust. To maximize the efficacy of community policing, we must blend all that we know about effective law enforcement practices with what we know from the social and behavioral sciences.

According to decades of research, biases, stereotypes, and distrust among groups are often caused by a lack of empathy between those who are different from each other. In the case of police officers and community members, each is not able to see themselves in the other and thus implicit bias, stereotyping, and distrust more easily evolve into violence. The long-term solution is, indeed, a form of community policing—but one that is rooted in the recognition of a common humanity, a necessary foundation for building more caring and connected communities.

In response to this empathy gap, the Project for the Advancement of Our Common Humanity at New York University launched the We Are Human (WAH) video campaign in four communities in California (Los Angeles, Oakland, Richmond, and Stockton). This campaign captures video self-portraits of people answering five questions that underscore our common humanity.  Each of the questions has been found to evoke responses that reveal remarkable similarities across diverse communities. The video promotion of our series can be found here (or see below). The complete series will be posted on our website shortly.

The video series is part of PACH’s larger effort to help community members and police officers to recognize the humanity of people from communities that are different from their own. In addition to the video series, we are developing "The Listening Project" where youth and cops will be trained as interviewers and interview each other to gain a deeper understanding of each other’s experiences.

Please spread the word by sharing this letter. If you would like to learn more or get your community involved in our efforts, please contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


About the Author

Niobe Way

Niobe Way

Niobe Way, Ed. D., is Professor of Applied Psychology in the Department of Applied Psychology at New York University. She is also the co-Director of the Center for Research on Culture, Development, and Education at NYU and the past President for the Society for Research on Adolescence. She received her doctorate from Harvard University in Human Development and Psychology and was an NIMH postdoctoral fellow in the psychology department at Yale University. Way’s research focuses on the intersections of culture, context, and human development, with a particular focus on the social and emotional development of adolescents. Way’s sole authored books include: Everyday Courage: The Lives and Stories of Urban Teenagers (NYU Press, 1998); and Deep Secrets: Boys’ Friendships and the Crisis of Connection (Harvard University Press, 2011). Her co-edited or co-authored books include: Urban Girls: Resisting Stereotypes, Creating Identities (NYU press, 1996); Adolescent Boys: Exploring Diverse Cultures of Boyhood (NYU Press, 2004). and Growing up Fast: Transitions to Adulthood among Inner City Adolescent Mothers (Erlbaum Press, 2001). The latter co-authored book (with Bonnie Leadbeater) received the Best Book Award from the Society of Research on Adolescence (2002). Way also writes blogs for numerous media outlets including the Huffington Post. Her research has been funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, The National Science Foundation, The William T. Grant Foundation, The Spencer Foundation, and by numerous other smaller foundations. Way is a nationally recognized leader in the field of adolescent development and in the use of mixed methods; she has been studying the social and emotional development of girls and boys for over two decades.