Gaining Empathy

I don’t know where I picked up my passion for it, but I have always loved political discussions that are civil, polite, and that can help people participating come to some sort of new understanding or respect for one another. I had one such discussion with three of my friends over the last couple days via Facebook, and even though I didn’t expect it, I gained a new sense of empathy from them, and for people who are suffering, particularly those of the Black community.

While I still am angry over the death of Jessica Doty-Whitaker, the white woman killed in a scuffle with BLM supporters, and I hope her killer gets the long arm of the law, I now realize how much the media has affected my ability to cool down, listen, and genuinely care about all the Black people who are scared in today’s society. The media is AWFUL at spreading and perpetuating fear, hate, and stereotypes of groups of people. Fox and CNN both suck.

Reading into Fox’s narrative takes away my sense of empathy for the upstanding people who want justice and fairness for the Black community, by perpetuating fear. It paints all BLM supporters as thugs, scares me about a possible uprising or civil war after November’s elections, and just is awful for my mental health. Plus perhaps most importantly, it doesn’t show the good examples of people within BLM who are working to make their parts of the world better for all. We need more of that on the airwaves.

On the other side of the coin, CNN is also awful in that it turns a blind eye to those in BLM who commit crime for the sake of committing crime. Those who destroy business, steal stuff and the like, need called out for their behavior in the same way true racists need called out for theirs. They aren’t pushing for equal justice and protection under the law. They’re just looking for an excuse to be violent and destructive. And they give those truly pushing for change and equality a bad name.

The network also seems to be intent on shoving the concept of white privilege down people’s throats, rather than trying to teach them what it is, or gently correct their biases. They seem to be set on shaming all currently living white people for the injustices perpetuated upon the Black community, even though the ones responsible for initially perpetuating injustice have long since died. Although there are systems put in place by those people that definitely need fixed, such as the prison system, and housing practices. That being said, I’m personally not sure if white privilege exists. If it does exist, are poor, homeless white people counted among the “privileged”? That’s the question I have. That’s where white privilege doesn’t make sense to me. And I know I personally am not a racist guilty of anything ugly against the Black community, either. I have nothing personally to apologize for. But I do realize I have a new perspective to learn, and biases to figure out and correct over my entire life.

I learned from my friends, that I am only seeing a small fraction of the truth by not seeing the whole story of those who are pushing for justice and equality in America today. I’m only seeing the bad examples the media spews out every day. I also did not initially see how the criminal justice system needs fixing, and how there is a current system in place that really is not fair for all people. I was shortsighted, stubborn and wrong. As people tend to be when they get defensive and combative. But one of them understood where I was coming from and why I was defensive. They understood my fear and why I saw BLM the way I did, even though she obviously didn’t agree with me.

My friend Milena, the first person to welcome me to graduate school at the University of Findlay in 2016, taught me two things yesterday that I want to try to always remember from now on: That we should always try to avoid seeing things as a single story, and that I don’t necessarily have to agree with BLM, or different viewpoints. BUT that the disagreement with those things should only come after I have formed educated opinions on them by studying them. She recommended that I watch this TED talk by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a Nigerian writer. It’s a bit long but very interesting, and gave me a new perspective, and something to chew on and think about! Watch it below:

I learned new perspectives and approaches not only from this video, but I also learned a new way to see things because Milena approached me in such a way that she helped me to see where I was off the mark, but still did so in a compassionate way as well. She never insulted me or made me feel stupid. She routinely reminded me that she saw me as a compassionate, good person while she was talking to me. Everyone could learn from her example. HOW SHE COMMUNICATED WITH ME IS WHAT THE WORLD NEEDS IN TERMS OF COMMUNICATION! There is too much screaming and not enough listening. Too much stubbornness and not enough compassion. Too much demonizing and not enough human empathy. Too much shaming and not enough gentle correcting. The lack of these things is why people dig themselves in. They entrench themselves when they feel threatened.

It takes a wise, compassionate and strong person who truly cares, to be able to approach someone in a caring way. The qualities I listed above are truly rare qualities to have. And I am grateful that my friend Milena has them, and grateful that she sees me as a genuine friend in spite of our many political differences, and different beliefs. Hopefully I can develop these qualities and become a better man.

I am grateful as well for my thesis advisor, Mr. Harley Ferris. While I do not agree with many of the things he said in our discussion, or many of the aspects of his worldview, the one thing I learned from him that I need to do, is examine the history of injustices of white people against the Black community. I need to look at those things that aren’t exactly pretty, comfortable, or downright ugly. For it is only by seeing uncomfortable, ugly, nasty things, that we realize now NOT to be. In response to this, I have begun watching the Netlix documentary 13th, a film on how the US prison system is rigged and flawed against the Black community. It is very eye-opening and interesting, and sad. While I do not agree with everything said thus far in the documentary, I can understand and get behind the majority of what is said. It is definitely worth a watch. If people can put aside their biases or preconceived notions, it might teach them a couple things. Here’s the trailer:

Moving forward, I still do not feel comfortable with supporting Black Lives Matter as an organization. But I do feel the need to educate myself and see new perspectives, see good examples of people pushing for racial justice and equality, stay away from big media, and learn to examine WHY I get angry or defensive at certain things or situations.

Personal change is uncomfortable. It’s slow. Growth is painful. But we should always try to move forward and do so. Even if it takes baby steps. If we learn to see our biases against certain people or things, where those biases might come from, and work to correct them, we become better people. We become more understanding, more empathetic, more caring, and better people. And even though I unfortunately have not talked to Him in a while, one thing popped through my mind yesterday: When we examine where we are flawed, and work to become more understanding and loving, we become more like Jesus.

I always wonder what He would be doing in today’s society. I wonder how He sees everything? I do not know how He sees it. I feel like He would be with the protesters who truly push for justice and equality. He would be walking with them. but He would probably shame those who are destroying the businesses and livelihoods of innocent people. But by the same token, I am reminded of an episode in the Bible: His overturning of the tables of the money changers.

While Jesus is incredibly loving and forgiving when we are truly sorry for our faults and failures, He also absolutely DESPISES sin, injustice and corruption. He overturned the tables of the money changers and called them all out. He was furious. He wasn’t always peaceful and loving when He was down here. He got angry sometimes. And His anger was righteous. He stirred shit up when people needed wake up calls. Would He help tear down statues? We’ll never know. But trying to put myself in His shoes will definitely give me a new way of looking at things.

Going forward, I will try to see different angles and perspectives, and try to put myself in Jesus’ shoes when it comes to being more empathetic and caring toward other people. We could all learn to emulate Him better. Especially in situations that call for us to care for others and listen to them.

Published by Luke Wickiser

Hi everybody! I'm passionate about many subjects, such as faith, history, politics, and sports. Stay tuned to Luke's Thoughts for updates on all these things!

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