Racism Matters & A Lesson on Empathy

Empathy: The ability to identify with or understand the perspective, experiences, or motivations of another individual and to comprehend and share another individual’s emotional state.

Grief has been my leading emotion this week, but for more than just personal reasons. I grieve for the state of this nation and our world. And I grieve for my community and those around me.

I grieve the loss of human decency and the lack of empathy that freely and flippantly flows out of the mouths and actions of so many. I grieve when excuses are constantly made for poor behavior, and when people are hurting, truly hurting, the silence is deafening because you’ve determined it doesn’t pertain to you.

This type of grief often leaves me feeling helpless, heartbroken and alone. It’s exhausting and infuriating when incidents like Charlottesville occur and I know I must guard my heart deeply. Not only for the tragic nature of the event itself, but also for the insensitivity and hate that is sure to follow. 

Tees c/o: Human Citizens

Exhibiting empathy doesn’t mean you are abandoning what you believe in.

But if you could press pause on your arguments long enough to place yourself in someone else’s shoes, perhaps a hard but necessary conversation can be had. Perhaps several conversations. Maybe even a continued and respectful dialogue. 

Displaying empathy doesn’t cost you a thing, unless you find it too sacrificial to lay down your pride.

When we can no longer weep and mourn with one another because we’ve grown too complacent in our unaffected bubble, the damage is far-reaching.

When we lack empathy our hearts aren’t truly breaking for what breaks God’s heart. 

When we lack empathy we easily dismiss the concerns of others because “it doesn’t affect us anyways”. 

When we lack empathy we don’t actually hear each other out because we’re too busy crafting our comebacks, deflecting and placing blame.

When we lack empathy we talk about what could have, should have, would have happened if he or she did this, or if he or she won this, or that one time they did that.

When we lack empathy we become more concerned with building our case rather than building a bridge toward unity, peace and love. 

When we lack empathy it becomes all about self.

When we can’t or won’t even attempt to see things from a perspective other than our own, it’s no wonder why major issues like racism continue to get dismissed.

Racism is real. Please, repeat after me:

Racism is real.

This shouldn’t be a far-fetched or crazy notion, yet time and time again there is someone making the case that talking about racism isn’t worthy to be heard. Even after neo-Nazis march and spew vile hatred, or white supremacists like David Duke gloat about being emboldened on their Twitter feeds, there’s still too much of this:

You’re being divisive, entitled, and it’s time to move on.

Get over it and stop whining.

It’s just a statue or it’s just a flag or it’s just a fill-in-the-blank are responses I’ve heard time and time again.

You deem talks of injustice or race relations or peaceful protests as “futile” and “fueling the fire”, not realizing (or not caring), that the types of statements you’ve made are marginalizing and insensitive and you are part of the problem.

Before telling someone who is hurting how they should or should not handle themselves, have you maybe tried checking on their heart?

Before jumping on the bandwagon of “many sides were to blame”, have you asked your Jewish friend how they were coping or checked in with your African American neighbor who is smiling through their tears?

Oh but it goes both ways Patricia!! What about when I was wronged by *insert people group*. Doesn’t that count for something? Don’t you care about me too?!! 

Yes, actually, I do.  I’ve said it before, and I will say it again:

Cruel, ignorant and intolerant people come in all shapes, sizes, colors and occupations. If you were hurt, marginalized or called out your name by one of them, I would stand with you. I might not get it. It may be hard for me to understand, but I’d stand with you.

However, when you are throwing that experience in my face as a way to minimize my suffering, again, you’ve missed it.

Another thing that occurs when we lack empathy, is that we put people in a box because it’s easier that way.  The thing is, no one wants to be categorized, stereotyped, or put in a box. 

No one. 

I, for one, have grown weary of tearing the box apart, over and over and over again. 

I am a black woman who is absolutely disgusted by racism. I’m a wife and mother who wants to leave my house and not feel like the color of my skin may or may not affect how you treat me or my children. I have been called the n-word multiple times in my life, and I agree that hate, ALL THE HATE is inexcusable, damaging, and a travesty in every way.

Am I passionate about this? YES.

Does it affect me on a real and personal level? ABSOLUTELY. 

Do I believe it’s a valuable, relevant and important topic to discuss? YOU BETTER BELIEVE IT.

But that’s not the full picture of who I am and what I’m about. I stand for many things, abhor many things, and wish I had the capabilities to change many things. I simply do not. I do not have the capacity, or the strength to address every single solitary issue that continues to attribute to our country’s great divide.

That doesn’t mean I don’t care!!

I can Back the Blue, Support Our Troops AND insist that you realize Black Lives Matter too!! I shouldn’t have to remind you of this, except it makes it easier for you to despise me, guilt-free, if you think I’m dismissing what is important to you too.

But why do we have to choose?

I’m not saying you have to be involved in a specific movement or make a public statement every time something horrific occurs. I’m simply stating that it’s tiresome every time my heart’s cries are viewed as complaints. It’s a punch in the gut when my examples of personal racist attacks are perceived as “pulling the race card”. And I still can’t understand why you don’t understand that just because a struggle isn’t real to you, doesn’t mean it isn’t real?

And please don’t start throwing out the one quote that you know by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., or pointing to your one black friend as proof positive that you mean well. And to my fellow Christ Believers, I say this with love and grace and peace and hope, please don’t tell me for the umpteenth time that Jesus loves everybody. I know that and believe that with all my heart. My problem is the world, even myself, sometimes struggles with believing all of you.

Photos by: Jessica Whaley Photography

I’ll believe you when you actually listen. With no ulterior motive. No argument poised and ready before I’ve even opened my mouth. Please, just listen. 

I am an immensely flawed individual who sincerely wants to love better, deeper and harder. I stumble and fall. I crash and burn. And sometimes I downright miss the mark.

But I am willing to listen. 

If you know me in person and still don’t understand, maybe we can grab a cup of coffee and discuss. And while in reality I’ll be drinking tea because I don’t like coffee (and you might actually hate me for that), I will hear you out. I will not promise to agree with you, but I will listen attentively and with open ears. I will do that for you but the real question is, will you do the same for me? I’d like to think you would, but history dictates that you’re more likely to write me off because it makes you uncomfortable. 

Prove me wrong, and let us all invite empathy back into our hearts. 


26 thoughts on “Racism Matters & A Lesson on Empathy

  1. I couldn’t wait to read this when I saw it on IG. Thank you for writing from your heart- I’m listening. Yet again, your post made me tear up. I have so much to learn. I wish I could grab coffee/tea with you just to listen more. Praying for you and for our nation

  2. Wow! it saddens me that everything you wrote is so true. It is so easy for us all to put our thoughts, feelings, and beliefs above others and feel justified to do so. Yet by doing so, we cannot truly call ourselves Christ-followers. Because while Christ laid down His life for us, so many are not willing to even lay down their pride to listen or have empathy for others. Yet despite it all, we all have to use our voices and lives to speak up and speak out and show that love truly is stronger than hate.

  3. Absolutely amazing amazing read! Let’s eliminate categorizing and putting people in boxes…why can’t we all take a moment to consider others heart & pain instead of constantly building your own case. Patricia you my friend are incredible and your powerful words are so incredibly inspiring. Keep on shining your light! Also I would have my coffee with you while you drank tea and thought nothing of it! Xx

  4. Love this! I completely agree. I can believe in multiple things and disagree with multiple things. I don’t understand why wanting to love instead of hate is hard for people to understand. (I even love both coffee and tea!).

  5. Very well said. I believe that most of us have lost our sense of empathy and that’s just sad. There’s so much hate in this world that we must choose to stand up for one another.

  6. I couldn’t agree with you more, here! The only silver lining I feel for these events is that now they are in the open and not lurking in the side lines. People who ever felt marginalized and subject to racism have a stronger voice today than in recent times. Hopefully all of us talking and sharing our views about it will help us reach a solution. Great post!

    ❥ tanvii.com

  7. Thank you for sharing this post. It’s important. VERY important. And as a white person I acknowledge my privilege and my ‘bubble.’ But I also acknowledge that just because it doesn’t affect me on a personal level, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t affect me and my values. I’ve been angry this week, but I’ve also been torn because I feel like I can’t physically or emotionally take it anymore. I can’t take where our country is right now — with the blatant hate and cruelty and disregard for any minority. I HURT and I’m angry and I don’t know what to do. So I can’t stop crying out of anger. ;(

    PS. Sorry for the random long ass comment going absolutely nowhere with no point other than to say “GRRRRR, USA.”

  8. I freakin love this post! This is so so so important! It pains me to see how much empathy we lack! I’m hoping that I can teach my girls that this world is so darn beautiful because of its differences. I grew up in a small town mentality and then moved to a booming area and felt so uneducated on how many different backgrounds are in this world. I now love getting to know people and their culture and I hope my girls will embrace that same curiosity! Thanks for sharing!

  9. You have a beautiful family, and this post was much needed! It is easy for people to tell us what to do or how to feel when they don’t try to see beyond their own perspective. I’ve been told that I would be a “house n*****” because I am lighter skinned. (Unfortunately, they don’t understand that my grandmother is the product of a white man and black woman. All of her children were very fair skinned, they could pass for white until they open their mouths, and my dad is the lightest one of them all.) If people could do as you mentioned, and empathize, then we could get somewhere. Until then, continue to pray!

  10. I wish more people could think this way! What I’ve been noticing lately is either people want to stay out of it completely or they’re starting to suffer from compassion fatigue. It is an exhausting climate to live in, but you nailed it.

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