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.

Shaming Victims Empowers Abusers

Today was an emotional day for all of the wrong reasons.  I caught wind of some statements made by Stephen A. Smith on his show First Take.  He and his co-host were covering the 2 game suspension of Ray Rice due to his highly publicized domestic violence incident with his wife. Despite very few people knowing the exact details of what occurred in the elevator, Mr. Smith decided to glide into the discussion of domestic violence.  His statements have been transcribed and the two-minute clip is easily accessible.

The words that hit me in my gut were “let’s make sure we don’t do anything to provoke wrong actions” and “And I think that just talking about what guys shouldn’t do, we got to also make sure that you can do your part to do whatever you can do to make, to try to make sure it doesn’t happen.” followed by  “we also have to make sure that we learn as much as we can about elements of provocation. “Not that there’s real provocation, but the elements of provocation, you got to make sure that you address them, because we’ve got to do is do what we can to try to prevent the situation from happening in any way.”

I immediately read the entire transcript of his statements again.  I stopped to think about what I just read and decided that there was no way this man could have said these words on national television, so I read the transcript a third, fourth and fifth time.  I wanted to be clear about what was said, the context in which his words were used and to affirm any disbelief that I had of these words being used against victims of domestic violence.

I am not here to discuss the scenario that these comments stemmed from or to discuss how many women “provoke” men to hit them.  I am here to simply say that these types of statements, made by powerful people with platforms, based on extremely complicated & damaging situations are overly simplified.  They are overly simplified by dismissing the severity of a man hitting, punching, slapping, grabbing, shaking, pushing or verbally abusing a woman.  It not only shames victims, but it empowers the abuser.  Everyone is clear on the old saying, keep your hands to yourself, but no one has the right to dismiss a persons uncontrolled temper as simply actions that were caused by someone provoking them.

I shared a piece of my own story of watching my mother being abused as a 2 year old and it took me to a place of pain, because I know a man who used to say that she provoked him.  That something as simple as not speaking loud enough, looking away from him or not being where he wanted you to be, when he wanted you to be there was what provoked him to leave a boot print in her back.  So when a man says that you should not provoke a man to abuse you, I ask how.  How can a woman not provoke a man who has already resolved to abusing her? To controlling her? To making sure she knows her place in this world and in his house? How can she avoid the abuse when she is not working and has children to feed? How can she avoid the abuse when she does not have any transportation to flee from her abuser? How can she stop the abuse when everyone around her is in denial and refuses to help her?

My own story is not one that I share alone, but one that was echoed by many women over my timeline.  This story was shared by men and the abuse their mothers endured.  Domestic violence has left many women dead.  Domestic violence has left many children motherless.  Domestic violence has damaged many people’s self-esteem, life and livelihood.  Domestic violence is not a casual conversation to be governed by a PSA from a sports newscaster.  Domestic violence is not a topic that can be simplified and a general band-aid placed on for your comfort.  Domestic violence is real.

As we speak women are enduring the abuse of a man.  As we speak someone is being murdered for attempting to leave their abuser.  As we speak the search for an abuser who left a child alone while he killed their mother is happening.  Everyday.  We hear the same story over and over, but somehow we come right back to pointing fingers at the victim.  She created this problem.  She stayed.  She is dumb.  She should have known.  She, the victim is not worthy of our empathy because clearly she provoked him.

I want to go so much deeper into my own story, but to wade in those very dark waters would take me to a place I am not ready to go to.  To all of the men that decided that verbally abusing me on Twitter would convince me that all women provoke men, know that I am unbothered and will not waver in standing up for victims of domestic violence.  If you know me, than you know I do not play.  If you do not know me, come for me when I did not send for you on a topic that is too real to me, and you will find out quickly that you cannot stand toe to toe with me on a topic I have experienced and can back up with numbers.

This is the beginning of a deeper conversation.  One that many of us are afraid to have because although the wounds are not visible, for many, they still remain.  To those who have endured abuse, survived abuse, know someone who may have even died, I pray for you and know that you cannot be silenced.

If you are a victim, you should not be ashamed.  Shame on your abuser. Be you.  Do you.  Tell your own story.  On your own terms.