Thoughts

Black Lives Matter: How Empathy Begins with Education

As a white woman, I can’t relate to the racial bias that people of color experience in their everyday lives. Whether that bias is in the form of a microaggression, like being asked a seemingly innocuous question rooted in ignorance, or something intentionally racist and derogatory, like being the target of discrimination based on one’s skin color, I can’t relate to these types of bigotry and injustice that people of color have experienced throughout their entire lives.

What I can relate to is being afraid to speak up in fear of being judged or mocked. In school, I’d use my quiet nature as a defense mechanism. Yet, once people got to know me, they’d be shocked by something as arbitrary as when they’d hear me swear for the first time, because they always saw me as a reserved person and thus misjudged me simply because they didn’t really know me. With that said, let me make one thing abundantly clear: Fuck racism.

It goes without saying that silence speaks volumes, and to be silent and not stand in solidarity with Black Lives Matter only reflects a place of privilege and highlights our country’s ongoing problem with systemic racism. People who challenge the call for change or counter it by declaring that “all lives matter” are simply missing the point. All lives don’t matter until Black Lives Matter, until Black voices are heard and innocent Black people are no longer killed by cops. All lives don’t matter until justice is served and the police officers who murdered Breonna Taylor are convicted. All lives don’t matter until Black people don’t have to worry about speaking up in fear of losing their jobs.

Over the past few weeks my company has been hosting virtual forums for people to openly share their personal experiences with racism and unconscious bias. One of the more pertinent takeaways I got from the most recent session is the reminder that it’s not the responsibility of people of color to educate others. It’s up to us to educate ourselves, to understand why making a comment about a person’s accent or last name or appearance or background can take an emotional toll on them. It’s up to each of us to know when to listen so that we can better understand why these experiences are so harmful, thereby taking the first step to discover useful ways we can show our support in amplifying Black voices.

Another important takeaway is to realize the importance of normalizing conversations about race and discrimination. Racism sadly isn’t going to go away overnight, but bridging the divide begins with these ongoing discussions. It’s about truly empathizing with people of different backgrounds and understanding that it’s a two-way street. Specifically, when it comes to promoting diversity, it’s really about inclusion by enabling people of all races to have equal opportunities. It starts with each one of us to reflect on our own unconscious biases, thus helping us learn how we can strengthen our empathy and help in any way we can. That empathy begins with education.

Black Lives Matter. To find out how you can make your voice heard, show support and educate yourself by learning new ways you can help, visit https://blacklivesmatter.com/.

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