Empathy through story

Black Lives Matter

Black Lives Matter

Black Lives Matter

If you’re not okay with the above statement, I strongly encourage you to look inward as to why it’s spurring such an adverse reaction.

Now, I’m far from an expert on this subject. How can I be when I’m a white cis-woman who is straight-passing? I have never had to witness someone cross the street because they were afraid to walk past me. I have never had to witness someone clutch their purse closer in an elevator. I have never had to fear for my life when getting pulled over for a traffic violation.

But it doesn’t take me having those experiences to empathize with the pain of my Black brothers, sisters and siblings and know they’re treated as subhuman. 

It’s wrong. It’s unfair. It’s inhumane. 

The fact that Breonna Taylor, an EMT, couldn’t be safe sleeping in her own home, is horrifying. The fact that Ahmaud Arbery couldn’t be safe going for a run in his own community is terrifying. The fact that George Floyd couldn’t be safe getting groceries is ghastly. The fact that Tamir Rice couldn’t be safe playing at his local park is disgusting.

The list goes on. The horrors go on. We shouldn’t have to keep reliving the same traumas over and over and over again. So of course we’re protesting. Of course we’re rioting. This war has been waging for centuries, but now we have social media chronicling the unjust violence so maybe we’ll finally make some progress. 

But returning to my original favor of asking you to wonder how the simple phrase “Black Lives Matter” could be so disquieting to folk, I’m brought back to the reason we tell stories to children. Children learn kindness through parables. Same with patience and forgiveness. They learn how different the human experience can be for some by digesting stories either through books, television shows and movies. 

Hope for validation draws us in over and over to different outlets. It’s why many women got so excited for Wonder Woman only to get disappointed by Justice League. After years of crying out for a female superhero movie, we got Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman and we finally got to see our gender kick ass through the female lens. Then Justice League came out and Snyder had reduced our powerful Amazons down to leather bikinis. 

Why? Why does someone feel the need to strip down those who don’t share their gender, sexuality or skin color? 

A part of me thinks it’s due to a deficit in exposure. But the bias goes deeper than that. People’s hubris keeps them from divesting from their original worldview. They fear that if the world truly is more complicated than their perception, then their worth as a human being is no longer valid. So instead of prizing empathy and understanding, they double down on their ignorance because it’s “safer” (for them, not the countless masses of people who face injustice and inequality daily). 

So let’s back it up back to childhood. Imagine a world where from the word GO, there is equal equity in the stories being told. For every Percy Jackson, we get another epic MG series where a young Black girl navigates life in the world of the Orishas. For every Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, we see a young Black boy who just wants to help his family get wrapped up in some whimsical adventure. For every Magic Tree House, we see Black siblings supporting each other as they navigate the world and tackle challenges. 

We have to start demanding that Black voices be heard. There is no future worth living where bookshelves and movie screens continue to be white washed. Only when the stories we tell our children represent the vibrant diversity of this world can we hope to build a future where everyone has access to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. 

No lives matter until Black lives matter too. Plain and simple. 

Sending my love to all those fighting the good fight. 

– B

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