Today is Empathy Day, though I feel that every day should be empathy day.
If you’ve read my books, or heard me speak, you know this is a word I care deeply about. There is a whole lot wrong with human beings, but one of the things we are capable of is empathy; at stepping into someone else’s shoes and seeking to understand, to feel, what it must be like to be them.
And we need empathy now, more than ever.
Like everyone, I was horrified by the cold-blooded murder of George Floyd at the hands of the very people who should be there to ‘serve and protect,’ but I’ve also been long horrified by centuries of systemic, institutional and generational racism. For me, racism is the absence of empathy. It’s a failure in the interconnected human system. From pogroms to Apartheid, from the Holocaust to today’s police brutality against black people, humanity is at its worse when it fails to empathize with its fellow humans.
Black Lives Matter means being empathic to the specific and long-gestating conditions of racism that black people (including my friends) have endured because a void of empathy has allowed people to seem as other or somehow lesser; and then committing to impactful change.
We need to address and eradicate racism, almost as if it was a contagious virus gnawing at the collecting body of humankind.
Harper Lee, in ‘To Kill A Mockingbird,’ explains eloquently:
“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”
I don’t claim to be an authority or an expert on this, but I do believe it’s got to start with empathy.
I’d love to hear your thoughts.
In the meantime, here’ a few extra pieces of thought:
The Bookseller: Pages of Empathy (April 2013)
An interview with Toppsta about the importance of Empathy (2019)
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