We are living in troubled times. We have entered a new period of conflict and instability. A Princeton University group study of three months of protests in 2020, found that 96% of U.S. urban areas saw violent unrest. Even greater unrest is possible, that could last well into the decade. Bank of America has warned that there is a very real risk that “civil unrest” could crash the global economy.
The most important thing that we can do to protect ourselves from civil unrest or becoming a target is to stay ahead of the curve. Knowledge is power. The anticipation of events before they occur puts us in a better position to avoid, mitigate and defend against them.
Although there are times when violence of action is the only viable option, as law enforcers and law abiding citizens we all must strive to avoid or deescalate conflict whenever possible. This is not a sign of weakness. It is strategically and tactically sound.
THE GRAY MAN CONCEPT
Becoming a gray man is an important element of avoiding conflict or being targeted for crime. We all subconciously evaluate persons we encouter. Do they belong there? Are they a potential threat? The most dangerous man flys under the radar. He has the element of surprise. Standing out in a crowd can not only put you at a tactical disadvantage, it can also make you a target.
In today’s highly charged political environment, the importance of not standing out has become all the more important. Simple political rhetotic can easily incite violence if someone happens to disagree with your views.
Not standing out is often referred to as being a gray man. It is the art of blending in or drawing minimal attention. There are circumstances in which it may be impossible to blend in. The best we can do in these circumstances is to look like we belong and pose no threat.
It is situational camoflauge. Knowing the people and environment are key to becoming a gray man. What is appropriate is stuationally dependant.
The concept is simple.The gray man doen’t attract unwanted attention. He doesn’t raise any red flags in either his appearance or behavior. He avoids extremes. He doesn’t appear to be either a threat or a target. He looks like he belongs where he is. He is forgettable.
Subsconciously assessing those around us is a survival mechanism hardwired into our primal core, although the degree of our awareness varies depending on our training and situational awaness.
Next time that you are out and about make a note of who draws your atrention and why. This will vary with the environment. We must recognize our stimuli and seek to avoid them.
The attributes of a gray man are dependant on the context. A baseline must be established. Extremes on either end of the spectrum must be avoided. For some people becoming a gray man may require a major lifestyle change.
A general rule of thumb is to avoid any clothing, signs, stickers or any other outward symbols that associate you with a group, organization, political party, religion, or any controversial hot-button issue. Be bland.
Don’t publicly espouse any opinions or beliefs that could be perceived as confrontational. I know we would all like to, but it’s important not to give anyone looking for trouble an excuse.
The gray man should opt for standard civilian attire and gear that also fulfils his tactical needs. Overtly tactical apparel and gear should be avoided. It is practical and commonplace, but it can also scream “shoot me first.”
Concealed means conceled. Off-duty LEOs and lawfully armed citizens should carry concealed as if their life depended on concealment. It very well may. Although open carry is legal and not that uncommon where I live, it is foolish when not in uniform and invites problems.
THE CONFIDENT GRAY MAN
Becoming a gray man doesn’t lessen the importance to look and act confident. In law enforcement training, the latter is referred to as “command presence.” A confident and situational aware individual is less likely to become a target. Predators look for soft targets and are more likely to avoid hard targets.
Acting confident does not mean acting aggressive. Glance at a potential threat in the eyes to show that you are aware of him but don’t maintain the stare. Predators may view the latter as a challenge. Be dangerous but don’t look dangerous. Don’t invite trouble.
Situational awareness is an important element of being a gray man. Not only is it essential to blending in, it is the foundation of good decision making. It accomplishes several things. It gives us a tactical advantage by being prepared for things before they occur, keeping us ahead on the action-reaction curve.
It also serves as a deterrent. If a bad guy knows that you are onto him, it eliminates the element of surprise and makes you less likely to be a target.
Situational awareness allows you to take control of your environment, assess your options and take decisive action. Don’t allow yourself to become distracted. Distraction is a common technique utilized by terrorists and criminals to target individuals.
Stay gray. Stay safe.