Stef (firecat) wrote,
Stef
firecat

another interesting entry on alas, a blog

http://www.amptoons.com/blog/archives/2006/04/08/white-racism-and-empathy-or-the-lack-thereof-4/

I decided to link to it because of this:
Much of the racism in America today manifests itself in a lack of empathy.
The post goes on to add
I am by no means trying to dismiss structural racism. I agree that our political, economic, and educational systems are structure in a way that recreates racism. However, I think there is a fundamental lack of empathy that underlies White racism.
OK, here I am taking some of the points of the article and generalizing them out of the "White racism" context, which some people probably won't like. But anyway:

I often think that inability to understand and care enough about other people's experience underlies a lot of the problems in society.

The article goes on to theorize about life experience that increases empathy:
Feagin and Vera believe that Whites can develop empathetic orientations through “approximating experiences.” Approximating experiences help Whites grasp what it is like to be the victim of racial discrimination. Citing a study by Tiffany Hogan and Julie Netzger, they say that approximating experiences most often come from three sources: relying on stories that people of color tell about their experiences, relying on general humanistic values, and relying on aspects of their own oppression. In the last case they note that White women who experienced multiple forms of discrimination (such as being a woman and being lesbian or Jewish) are more likely to develop empathetic orientations toward people of color.
This part resonates with my experience. At some point I began to personally experience results of society's marginalizing of women, non-young women, fat people, and not-completely-able-bodied people more than I had in the past. That experience increased my ability to understand how other marginalized people feel.

Not that I understand all of what others feel or all of their situation, of course. I just notice that I feel "ouch" more often when hearing about other people's experiencing difficulties resulting from such marginalizing, as compared to the past when I was more likely to think "Why don't they just [fitb]?"

Also, when I read people saying "Why don't they just [fitb]?" I feel angry and frustrated more often. I know from personal experience that sometimes [fitb] isn't possible but I feel unable to explain why it isn't possible to people who haven't personally experienced a situation where [fitb] might be a solution but only if you have the mental, emotional, and physical resources to [fitb], and the resources aren't there. People seem not to understand in some cases why the resources aren't there. Sometimes it's because of the burden of a thousand straws on your back, none of which is a heavy weight by itself, or when picked up briefly, but when they are all lumped together and carried for long periods of time they end up draining your resources.

At the same time, as a person who has tended to be oriented toward problem-solving, I have some understanding of the "You should [fitb]" urge.
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