The Lack of Empathy in America

I come from a family that extends themselves to others without reciprocation.  My grandfather was a pastor and gave his all to his church and parishioners.  Many of them were more like family to us than church members.  Through the many changes that occurred at his church, he was never angry or upset, but always empathetic.  My grandmother had a sweet soul and prayed for others even on her sick-bed.  We have all experienced loss in some way or been through a life changing moment that may have knocked us off of our feet.  The empathy from our support system is what gets us through those tough moments.

Even though they have both been gone a very long time, I never loss that spirit of empathy.  So when I see people in America react to the murder of a black child with such hate and toxicity, I often wonder how they never learned empathy or why their empathy is so narrowly applied.   How can you be so arrogant to feel that only certain people deserve your empathy?

When people share an intimate story about a very personal issue, I connect and listen, even if I don’t understand.  When stories arise of young girls taking their lives because they were blackmailed or bullied by their classmates, I empathize with that young girl and her family.  When parents come on TV and discuss their child’s terminal cancer diagnosis, I empathize with them because I understand that they are going through so much individually and as a family.  When a school shooting happens and the shooter’s parents come on TV and say they had no idea that this was going to happen, I am empathic because I understand how that is possible.  When an unarmed child is murdered by the cops, regardless of race, I am taken aback because the cops are the people who have pledged to protect and serve and I suddenly feel vulnerable.

However, when I read the comments or see the coverage of incidents that involve a Black person and law enforcement, the lack of empathy in the media, amongst the readers, and those of other races who are interviewed is astounding.  How is there such a disconnect between these people and the victim simply because of his or her race?  People make the most nasty and disgraceful comment as if we are not human.  I have heard the same when it comes to domestic violence, rape, and forced prostitution.  How does a victim become the person to hate and the family the people to tear down, when the facts show that the other party was wrong?

Confront your biases and deal with the multicultural world you live in.  It is so disheartening to be the victim of racism on a professional level.  The educated are intelligent in one respect but ignorant in so many others.  This goes for race, religion, and sexual orientation.  Everyone is screaming progress but where have we progressed to when an unarmed victim is presumed to have deserved it.  Where a child is suddenly described as if he has lived and learned as much as the adult that is discussing him.  As if we ourselves have never made mistakes or deserve to be persecuted because of our imperfections.

I understand that the media has so much control over people’s thoughts, but there comes a time when you have to start thinking for yourself.  There comes a time where you cannot automatically think that every girl that has gotten raped deserved it because she dressed a certain way.  There comes a time when you cannot automatically think that every Black person that is shot by the police has a rap sheet.  There comes a time when you cannot automatically think that a woman is lying about being domestically abused.  The time is now or we will remain constrained by our hatred if we do not move beyond preconceived notions of truth based simply on race or gender.

We are being manipulated to dislike each other for reasons that are so minute and that many times,don’t hold any truth.  I do not hate white people because I know not all white people hate me, but I hate the idealistic theory that white is right and black is wrong.  I hate the idealistic theory that women are emotional and men are simply better leaders.  I hate the idealistic theory that someone with a different sexual orientation doesn’t deserve our respect. We are so deeply divided and not progressive as we think we are or claim to be.

We shame other countries for acts that occur right here on American soil.  We attempt to convince the world that we are the example that everyone should follow, but since this country was seized by immigrants, they did not respect those who were here, those they brought here, or those who appeared to be different then whatever ideal they had adopted at that time.  We refuse to admit our faults and mend the broken pieces that created this country.  We volunteer across the world as global citizens but hold our noses up to the homeless, impoverished, and destitute in our own country.

I have had to check myself and the way I have been raised to think about many things.  There is a lack of progress and growth that cripples many people.  Many have so many unchecked generational biases that do not coincide with the times, and most do not care to change them.  Please feel free to hold onto your negative notions, but know that the world around you is forging ahead and the ground beneath you is shifting, so be prepared to be apart of the change or an outsider, watching as we enjoy life without your hate.

This generation has to take charge and refine our own empathic triggers and teach our children how to be empathetic to others with no limitations.  Be you.  Do you.  Tell your own story.  On your own time.

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Listen to The Silence, It is Telling You Something

I rarely watch TV because I cannot take the noise.  Between my son, the dog, the iPad and everything else that is going on in my house and in my head, I am very sensitive to unnecessary noise.  Despite desiring a quieter environment, I fill my quiet space with social media and news that keeps my emotions high and thoughts constantly running through my head.  Although I think that I am relaxing, I am actually creating more tension within myself by attempting to think through so many of the issues that are happening daily.  My spirit kept telling me that I needed to fast from social media, but I did not see social media as a reason for me not being able to decompress and think through some very important personal issues.

So, today I decided that I am going to take a break from everyone’s updates and adventures and just listen to the silence.  I woke up early this morning to let the dog out and ended up not being able to go back to sleep.  I immediately filled this quiet time with social media updates that I had missed while I was sleeping.  Much of what I read was humdrum, a few thought-provoking posts, but most of it was not going to help me solve much of what I am dealing with at this moment.  I realized that I spent an hour just thumbing through the various sites and could have used that quiet time to pray and think.  I closed my applications, turned over my phone and went into a moment of prayer and meditation.  I dozed off and woke back up still very tense, but those few moments told me that I needed more quiet time.

My husband always says that I spend too much time in my phone, but I take his comments lightly because I feel he is being judgey.  While in law school, he saw my levels of productivity when I took a break from social media and my levels when I was actively engaged in social media.  He has a perspective that I don’t and instead of me being open to his opinion, I talked myself into thinking that I was perfectly balancing my consumption of social media and my quiet time.  His opinion has some validity, but I had to get to this place on my own time and own accord.  So, today I am here, listening to the silence.  I am allowing the words of my mind to run its course without having to fight against the images or updates I am reading.  I am taking a step back from the flow of life and taking a deep breath.  I am inhaling strength, power, and self-control.  I am exhaling stress, doubt, and fear.  I am inhaling success, favor, and productivity.  I am exhaling failure, missed opportunities, and laziness.  I am inhaling patience, kindness, and empathy.  I am exhaling impatience, bitterness, and selfishness.

I am releasing the toxicity that has been built up and cleansing my soul for something new.  Greater may be ready to enter into your life, but you may be filled with so much noise and negativity that there is no place for the energy needed to get to the next step of your journey.  Everyday there are new lessons to be learned but there has to room for them to take root in your heart.  Many of those lessons cannot be learned from listening to others but listening to the silence.  The silence is speaking and it is telling you something.  Do you hear it?

Be you.  Do you.  Tell your own story.  On your own terms.

If I Listened to Society, I Would Have Never Succeeded

Children like me are not supposed to graduate from high school early.  They are not supposed to go to a great college or university.  They are not supposed to finish and get their dream job.  They are not supposed to get dissatisfied with their career and go back to a great college or university for a second degree.  They are supposed to have a baby out-of-wedlock but they are not supposed to marry their child’s father.  Children like me are not supposed to own a home, complete a second degree and have opportunities to choose from.

If I listened to society’s message about being black, motherless, fatherless, poor or a mother before I planned, I would have never succeeded.  If I listened to society’s message about the value of an education at HBCUs, I would have never fought to stay at Howard every semester and would not have went back to Howard, declining scholarship opportunities at other law schools.  If I listened to society’s message about balancing a family and your dreams, I would not be investing all of my free time into making my dreams turn into a reality.

Society has a way of shaming, demeaning and humiliating women, mothers, poor people, minorities, working parents, those who are not sexual conformists or sexual purists, and anyone who attempts to advocate or speak up for these groups.  The messages that are highlighted in mainstream media, backed by “policies” and shown through biased images oppress, silence and discredit these groups. The instant and ease of access to social media, video recording and outlets that connect millions of people together have only begun to shed light on the truth of who we really are and who we can become.

YouTube videos, blogs, Instagram and Twitter hashtags have connected people from different walks of life who have endured similar experiences.  These mediums have allowed us to see that many of us are more alike than we are different, that we are powerful and we are beautifully complex and interesting. We have been exposed to amazing people with unique backgrounds, survivors of horrendous crimes and minorities who are making a difference in their communities locally, nationally and internationally.   We are beginning to accept that poor people are not the enemy and breastfeeding in public should be supported and not shamed.  We are applauding working parents, stay-at-home moms and dads and those who chose to do what makes sense for their own families at that time.  We are beginning to accept that civil rights should be equally applied to everyone despite who they love.  We are respecting the talent and value of a person despite their sexual identity.

The exposure to the possibilities of life and the truth of our existence has transpired because we have stopped listening to society.  We have taken control of our stories, the images we consume and strengthened our power by rejecting the limited scenarios that we have been offered to choose from.  Our power is to be feared.  An open and aware mind cannot be controlled.

They said I would never make it.  They said I should not go to college.  They said I would not finish college.  They assumed I would never find a job.  They thought I would become like my mother.  They wished that I would give up.  They hoped I would stop believing. Their words, thoughts and wishes did not work against me because I did not listen to them. I have succeeded because I did not allow them to define my success.

Stop listening. Succeed.  Be you.  Do you.  Tell your own story.  On your own terms.