Most writers’ introductions are captivating. They paint an image of a “stable world” in your mind’s eye; using the power of words to help readers visualize the main character. It isn’t long before readers develop an affinity for the protagonist as it becomes clear who the hero of the story is.
I’m not like most writers.
Make no mistake, hubris isn’t my intention. Clarity is my intention. To be unclear is to be unkind. The world is anything but stable. It is burning and so are her children. The main character is heroic. The main character is human. The main character is beautiful; blessed with ebony skin touched by God Himself. But instead of being met with love and empathy, they are met with prejudice, oppression, and murder. Each new day brings with it new plights to persevere. The result? Feeling helpless, hopeless, and seen as guilty till proven innocent.
Our black brother and sisters aren’t the only victims of injustice. The planet is suffering as well. Minke whales are having difficulty communicating as a byproduct of our “noise” on dry land. That’s right, these majestic mammals can literally hear our death and wrongdoing. So much so, it is deafening. Being the prolific loudmouths we are, our cries over civil unrest have only exacerbated the issue; fracturing minke whales’ lines of communication. If they’re unable to communicate, their chances of finding a mate – much less survive as a species – dwindles. Unlike blue whales, orcas, and the like, minke whales simply can’t “talk louder” via the Lombard effect, (as you and I would if we were at a Metallica concert). Meaning, in order for them to survive, they have to hear one another. They have to communicate. Sound familiar?
If our planet is dying as a result of it’s people dying, then what does that say about us? Our black brothers and sisters deserve better. Our black brothers and sisters shouldn’t be vilified. Our black brothers and sisters ought to be seen as champions, not criminals.
In order for us to survive, we too need to open the lines of communication. If those lines of communication are to be opened, then change must be catalyst.
Easier said than done.
The enemy of change has endurance that is second-to-none. Not only has it survived for several generations, it has thrived. But obscurity, not endurance, is this terror’s greatest trait. For the enemy isn’t racist radicals nor is it police brutality; these are simply malevolent manifestations of the real villain: apathy. Like gravity, it is a force that’s present, but not seen. In fact, more often than not, apathy’s aftermath is all we do see. By then it is too late. The damage has been done. This slithery characteristic makes apathy all the more difficult to defeat. It plucks family trees apart leaf by leaf. Turns children into chicken feed. And sicks hell hounds on the innocent until their blood flows through the streets.
“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.” – Einstein
We have failed our black brothers and sisters. If we do not take a stand against this apathetic antagonist, then more of the same will lead to more of the same.
Morgan Freeman once said, “The only way to end racism is to stop talking about it.” I look forward to that day, and it will come. But until then, I will not and cannot remain silent. In a time where “communication” is anything but, I feel compelled to use the gift of writing which God has blessed me with to be a (small) conduit to change.
Dear black brothers and sisters,
Attempting to earn your respect would be a fool’s errand, so I won’t. How could I? I am a white man, born to white parents, and live in a white man’s country. Your skin color is different than mine, so is your parents’, and you live in white man’s country. My ancestors were given everything this land had to offer. Yours weren’t given even a name. I do not understand what you’ve gone through. In fact, my only understanding of your trials and tribulations is that I will never understand.
What you and I do have in common is a heart. And though mine beats while yours bleeds, know this: I see you. I see you as a child of God. I see you made in His image. I see you no differently than I see myself. I write to you not as white man to black, but as person to person. Human to human. I see you more vividly than the tears running down my face and onto the keyboard. And because I wish to see you today, tomorrow, and the next day, it is my hope you’ll see me too. Not as a white man. But as a humble ally, a student ready to learn from you so we may become pioneers of change. Not like those who came hundreds of years ago. But as pathfinders searching for the shift in paradigm that is so desperately needed if we’re to be different. If we’re to survive. How will we rise up and defeat Apathy? With Empathy.
The Three Kinds of Empathy:
- Cognitive Empathy
Cognitive empathy is simply knowing how the other person feels and what they might be thinking. This type of empathy is crucial for understanding diverse viewpoints and upbringings. However, this kind of empathy may be fleeting; as disconnect from deep emotions may occur by not being able to put yourself in another’s shoes. It is one thing to feel sad, it is another thing entirely to understand one’s sadness. Cognitive empathy opens the door for communication as it allows us to “get inside another person’s head” if you will.
- Emotional Empathy
Emotional empathy is feeling (physically) what another person is feeling. Their emotions become contagious. This kind of empathy is a great help in developing close, interpersonal relationships. When was the last time someone came to you in tears? Did it pull on your heartstrings and make you want to cry alongside them? Emotional empathy is a deep, gut reaction. It feels like a visceral human response, and connecting with another person in this way is intimate. The result? A strong bond is formed.
- Compassionate Empathy
Compassionate empathy takes the greatest hits of Cognitive and Emotional empathy and combines them. This kind of empathy makes one not only grasp another person’s strife and the feelings associated, but we are drawn to help them. Compassionate empathy is what we’re striving for. But, we will never succeed if we don’t honor our black brothers’ and sisters’ head and heart by opening ours.
This is a time in history where it’s not enough to know; you have to know how. Open the lines of communication with Cognitive Empathy. Open your arms and embrace your fellow man with Emotional Empathy. Open your heart and touch with Compassionate Empathy. Our black brothers and sisters are suffering. It is time they are heard. Listen with your head, feel with your heart, heal with your hands. You must take action. You cannot sit on the sideline. You’re either with Apathy or against it, and you must take a side.
“We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” – Elie Wiesel
I do believe we can come together. And I do believe communicating with the three kinds of empathy is the key. But, if nothing changes, then nothing changes.
Unfortunately, change seems to be growing not like a weed, but like a tree. Slashed as a sapling. Raped before rooted. Molested before mature. Apathy has a collection of “greatest hits” too, and it takes the form of killing our own:
On May 25th, 2020, George Floyd was slain at the hands of Derek Chauvin, a white police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, was detained after a deli employee called 911, accusing him of buying cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill. Seventeen minutes after the first squad car arrived at the scene, George Floyd was unconscious and pinned beneath three police officers, showing no signs of life. After Chauvin knelt on his neck for eight minutes and forty-six seconds, Floyd died.
Is this what needs to happen? Do those who have “sworn to serve and protect” need to be hypocrites in the most heinous way possible for us to wake up? Of course this is rhetorical, and all police officers shouldn’t pay for the sins of several. But the decision to be made is simple: start listening or stop leading!
Now, if you believe in God, (and I do) then you’ve heard the saying, “The Lord works in mysterious ways.” I surmise He was at work this past week when Drew Brees sparked controversy with his comments regarding the National Anthem:
Were Drew’s comments myopic? Of course. Was he insensitive to our black brothers and sisters? Absolutely. Did any good come of it? I like to think so. If we are to change, then communication must be at an all-time high. Well, the cascade of conversation that’s followed Drew’s lack of empathy is exactly what this country needs if we have any hope of healing. We all, not unlike Drew, need to do a better job opening our hearts and closing our mouths.
To my black brothers and sisters as well as anyone who is reading, I am not your white knight. I am not Superman. I am your ally. An ally who is ready to listen. An ally who is ready to embrace empathy. An ally who is ready to abolish apathy. An ally who is ready to change.