The Transforming Power of Empathy
Updated: Jan 23
Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Riots are the language of the unheard.” Most can agree with MLK that riots, breeding property damage and violence, are not the moral method of making a point. So where is the forum for the voiceless to be heard? And if they spoke, would we have ears to hear their ideas and experiences?
Racial tensions have put Covid-19 concerns on the back burner for most of the country ever since the horrific, and senseless, killing of George Floyd. Racism is a human problem. It’s a sin issue. It has roots in every nation and every person. Closer to home, racism has been a systemic cancer in our country’s history that has plagued every generation since the pilgrims landed here.
We learn a lot by trying to empathize with our black neighbors by applying the wisdom of the Native-American proverb to “walk a mile in his moccasins.”
We will begin to understand better if we were to listen to:
Booker T. Washington – because he negotiated a path around white supremacy
Harriet Tubman – because she was a fearless Conductor of the Underground Railroad
Jackie Robinson – because he knocked Jim Crow clear out of the Park.
Thurgood Marshall – because he proved justice supreme by becoming a Supreme Court Justice
Malcolm X – because he created the spark to ignite black rights
Shirley Chisholm – because she walked uphill to become the lone black female on Capital Hill
Mary McLeod Bethune – because her struggles made her the “first lady of the struggle”
James Baldwin – because he was the voice of truth about the ugly truths of racism when it was only safe to remain silent
Rev. Richard Allen – because he lived the sermon he preached of self-sacrifice and self-denial to serve his people
Muhammad Ali – because his greatest fight was against American Society’s ills and he was willing to use his visibility to highlight racism’s blindness (but sadly his greatness was only widely appreciated when his illness would no longer allow him to speak out against injustice)
Robert Abbott – because he gave a voice to the voiceless as the pioneer of the black press
MLK Jr. – because he was a warrior of nonviolence
In an effort to learn by listening, I asked some of my Black Pastor friends to give me a list of books, movies, and resources that would help me as a white male understand better what it's like to live in black skin. I have begun a quest to listen and empathize by reading and watching their recommendations. It’s been a powerful experience to talk with these black brothers and to take in this information. So much so, that I wanted to share these resources with all of our supporters.
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Color-blindness; Michelle Alexander
White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism; Robin Diangelo
So You Want to Talk About Race; Ijeoma Oluo
The Fire Next Time; James Baldwin
MOVIES & DOCUMENTARIES
When They See Us
The Hate You Give
I Am Not Your Negro
A Class Divided (53 min.)
How Studying Privilege Systems Can Strengthen Compassion (TED Talks)
Prayer: “Father, those of us who call ourselves Christians, believe intellectually that we are all children of one family. We all know that the truth of the matter is no matter what we look like we all have traces of the same ancestors. Help us, Father, to seek more to understand than to be understood, to listen first before we speak, to be intentional about walking in another man’s shoes to know what it feels like to live in another man’s skin color. Lord, may we be humble enough to know that we need to hear from the entire family not just those who look like us. We need Openness: Please Open our eyes, our ears, our minds, our hearts to experience the Transforming Power of Empathy!
Silence can be a form of compliance. Let’s keep the dialogue alive in regard to ensuring social justice.
– Pastor Dan