What If I Did? Four Words Away From Empathy

When I make my way through my American day, I don’t have to think about the way my skin color, or the style of my dress or hair, or my accent might be taken by my fellow Americans. But what if I did?

I don’t have to worry that someone’s phone call to authorities might lead to my deportation away from my family. What if I did?

I don’t have to fear for my sons that a chance encounter with law enforcement might kill them. What if I did?

I don’t have to worry that a friend or family member might succumb to addiction and death despite everything I did for them. What if I did?

I don’t have to think hard before choosing which bathroom to use, knowing the wrong choice could get me beaten up. What if I did?

I don’t have to check my wallet or the family budget before buying myself a cup of tea, or a muffin, or even dinner out, whenever the urge strikes. What if I did?

I don’t ever have to suffer from lack of natural beauty. What if I did?

In each of these scenarios, I can imagine different responses, in thought or action or both, from the ones that flow from my usual cushy oblivion. I can imagine more involvement, yes. More self-education. But most of all, I don’t have to imagine, I FEEL more empathy, both toward people I am different from, and toward people with whom I deeply disagree.

So what? Still working on that one. Stay with me.

6 thoughts on “What If I Did? Four Words Away From Empathy

  1. We should be proactive. So much of prejudice and bullying happens because it is not happening us. Even if we see it happen we often stay silent. We should speak up, even just to say that’s not okay with me. Sometimes that’s enough. When it does happen to us we are usually so shocked or dismayed that we don’t say anything, which sends a message of success to the perpetrator. We need to represent a positive expectation and make room for others to join us. We are not looking for the reason for bad behavior, we are looking for cessation. And prepare for dialogue rather than conflict.

  2. That last line is the most telling. We all have to be examples, since the mainstream media isn’t showing us many. And it’s hard! But folks all over the world are doing it, or trying. Thanks for putting it so well, Marcia.

  3. What do you think of the #metoo movement? Certainly as a woman there hasn’t always been empathy for you historically either. Yes or no?

  4. Exactly what I’m talking about. Venting about your opposition’s wrong-headedness feels wonderful, but doesn’t, in the end, lead anywhere constructive. If the point is to actually get people to change their thinking, antagonizing is not a good strategy. Thanks for the link!

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