Anyone who knows me fairly well knows that I love to laugh. Dad jokes and puns are my personal favourites, but I’ll always appreciate a funny, well-delivered joke.
So naturally, when I saw this tweet last night:
I realize this may not have been the most appropriate or politically correct response, but I couldn’t help it. It was out of nowhere, not in response to any particular tweet – just the overarching theme of my profile, I suppose.
Em·pa·thy \ˈem-pə-thē\ :
The action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner; also : the capacity for this
Empathy is an essential element to developing an understanding of the ways that racial inequality and oppression, police brutality, the education system, the healthcare system, and countless other institutions and facets of life negatively impact and dehumanize North America’s black population on the daily.
With that being said, I also think it’s vital that white allies of the Black Lives Matter movement, myself included, recognize that we will never have as comprehensive of an understanding of systemic and institutionalized racism as the people who experience it every day.
This doesn’t mean that we cannot help, this does not mean that we cannot be effective in working towards ending police brutality, developing policy solutions, or showing our support in any other ways – it simply means that we must realize that our perspectives are limited, and we must be intentional about ensuring our voices never overshadow those who are most deeply affected by racial injustice.
We already have a plethora of people embracing the ‘white savior’ complex; jumping in on relevant issues when it’s convenient for them, sweeping in with attempts to be “the big hero” of the day, while doing very little of the work.
To put it simply, if you’re not present during the struggle, you don’t deserve to celebrate the success.
Now, hear me out before you get your panties in a bunch.
I’m not saying don’t be there for the struggle.
I’m not saying don’t celebrate the success.
What I’m saying, in the most straight-forward way I possibly can, is: Be there. Be present in the struggle. Fight the good fight.
Understand that we are not needed for the battle to be won. Understand that your absence from the fight for racial justice will not put an end to the movement.
But also understand that your absence will be detrimental. Every moment you refuse to step out of your own head and think about the people around you is another moment that millions of North Americans are trapped under deeply rooted systems of oppression.
Every breath you take knowing that systematic racism is literally ending the lives of millions of people is countless breaths lost to those that are being killed by the systems you’re refusing to stand up against.
I have to run. I’m sorry for ranting. I went into this frustrated and exhausted from having to explain why “NO, I AM NOT BLACK, BUT YES, I DO GIVE A DAMN ABOUT BLACK PEOPLE.”
I’ll continue this another day, but for now, please let this sink in. Let it resonate with you. Be open to change. Be open to empathy. Be open to justice.