Thoughts: Compassion, Empathy and Understanding

June 8, 2020 Sandra Dawes

I’ve been thinking about some of the things I’ve seen and heard in the last few weeks. I feel like what we are all being asked to step it up when it comes to compassion, empathy and understanding. I’m not sure if any real progress or meaningful change can happen without it.

There seems to be so much happening right now. There are people who are upset about the restrictions governments have enforced to stop the spread of Covid-19. Some are angry about the programs governments have put in place, either feeling they do too much or not enough. Some think it’s a conspiracy and others are anxious, worrying about the virus impacting their family and others have already lost someone. Lots of people started protesting their government agencies trying to compel them to reopen the economy.

Now, at a moment when many of us are at home with more time than we’re used to, George Floyd died during an interaction with police. There is outrage, protests and violence. Many don’t understand the frustration and anger at the death of man who was allegedly committing a crime.

It was heartbreaking to watch the video where George Floyd repeatedly says he can’t breathe. It was also heartbreaking to watch a video of Ahmaud Arbery being shot by a father and son. The Black community feels unfairly treated by law enforcement, and that feeling isn’t just experienced in the US, it’s a global issue. Some are tired of hearing that racism doesn’t exist and people saying look at “how far we’ve come!” The reality is there is that we haven’t come far enough.

I don’t live in the United States so I can only speak to what it is like to be Black in Canada. There was a time when I thought that I preferred the not-so-blatant racism that exists in Canada. Now that I’m older, I prefer to know where I stand rather than have an inauthentic exchange with anyone.

To those who wish that the talk about race could go away and things go back to normal I would challenge you that maybe normal isn’t where we should be heading anyway.

It’s time for Compassion.

I appreciate that more people of all races in my sphere is willing to have some real honest conversations. It takes courage to ask questions and be willing to listen, even if it isn’t what you want to hear because it’s what you need to hear.

It’s time for Empathy.

It is possible to empathize with what’s happening within the Black community even if you’re not Black. Regardless of race, when you come with an open, compassionate, empathetic heart, meaningful dialogue can happen. Instead of thinking that these injustice’s are happening to unknown stranger in some other place in the world, consider how you would feel if that was your son, brother, friend, colleague.

It’s time for Understanding.

Along with compassion and empathy, there has to be understanding. That doesn’t mean you agree with everything you hear. It means that you understand that another perspective exists and nothing you say or do will change the lived experience of another person.

I believe that compassion, empathy and understanding are the start to getting to a place we all want to be. It’s a start, but the work must continue. After getting to a point of understanding, there must be a plan and action needs to follow.

If all of the dialogue that’s happening now dies down with the next news cycle then the lives lost would have been a waste. I believe that everything happens for a reason. These lost lives shouldn’t be left as statistics of racial injustice. It’s a wake-up call for all of us who thought that these tensions were someone else’s problem to resolve. I know that I’m going to give more thought to what I can actively do to on my part, what about you?

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