Empathy Should Replace Apathy
The dreams of a post-racial America have yet to materialize, and new studies show that dream will not reach fulfillment from passive hoping.
New research shows that people’s belief that racism against African-Americans will just subside with each generation has proven to be false, with people displaying racism in different ways like apathy.
Frankly, if America wants to truly achieve a post-racial society, then real conversations about race and racism need to take place, and people have to actually care about people and their plight, even if those people come from a different racial group.
What we have in America is not a decrease in racism, just an increase in people who do not care about their fellow man if those men have a different skin color.
In her book “White Kids: Growing Up with Privilege in a Racially Divided America,” Mississippi State University’s Margaret Hagerman found out that White high school students are increasingly displaying a form of racial apathy or an “indifference toward societal, racial, and ethnic inequality and a lack of engagement with race-related social issues.”
Associated Press defines racial apathy as, “a more passive form of prejudice than explicit articulations of bigotry and racial hostility. But such apathy can nonetheless lead White people to support policies and practices that align with the same racist logic of the past, like a lack of support for social programs and policies designed to address institutional racism or an indifference toward the suffering of people of color.”
Although it is sometimes hard to pinpoint actual racism from racial ignorance and racial apathy, my experiences makes me concur totally with the findings of this research.
While teaching college courses, I had a White student who did not feel any sadness for Trayvon Martin’s family after his death.
Some even sympathized with George Zimmerman even though first responders told him to leave the 17-year-old Floridian alone so that law enforcement officials could handle the situation.
The student did not care that a grown man followed Martin throughout his father’s neighborhood and physically confronted the teenager.
Like so many Zimmerman supporters, the student criticized Martin for defending himself and fighting off Zimmerman as if a teenager should just let a strange adult physically assault them without trying to defend themself.
I had a White colleague who criticized people like Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan for alleged anti-Semitic comments and MSNBC television personality Joy Reid for alleged homophobic comments.
But that same colleague made every excuse in the world for Roseanne Barr after her racist comments towards Valerie Jarrett.
It said to me that anti-Semitism and homophobia are totally unacceptable and inexcusable.
However, racism against African-Americans should be accepted and laughed at.
Movements like Black Lives Matter are just playing the race card when activists protest against police brutality because racism and discrimination against African-Americans does not exist in their mind.
But, discrimination against the Jewish community and the LGBT community should be fought against, especially when the person doing the discriminating is African-American like Farrakhan and Reid.
That showed me that, although the person does not use racial slurs or maybe does not even hate African-Americans, the person does not care about African-Americans as much they probably thought they did.
In other words, if that person is not overtly racist, then the person is racially apathetic, which can lead to the same results according to the research.
Furthermore, there is a common misconception that if people are around people of different races and have a friendly rapport with them then they cannot be racist.
The old excuse of having Black friends comes from that mentality.
But how can a non-African-American truly have African-American friends if they are apathetic to their plight?
How can a person truly be your friend if they do not care what happens to you or people from your community?
I have White friends that I have been close to since elementary and middle school.
Do they all truly understand Black history or the Black plight? Not all of the time.
However, when I explain my experiences in this country as an African-American man and truly explain African-American history, they understand why I feel the way I do and they support me.
Because if something bad happens to someone they truly care about or if something detrimental can happen to me because of the color of my skin, they are going to be up in arms defending their friend.
The reason is because you cannot be apathetic about the plight of someone who is truly your friend?
Furthermore, knowing a few African-Americans does not mean you have African-American friends because friendship is a powerful word that is thrown around too loosely these days.
And it is almost impossible to believe that friends of different races have not had real and truly deep conversations about race relations.
Therefore, if a non-African-American has so many African-American friends then racial ignorance is almost impossible.
That is not to say that African-Americans come across as blameless either.
When it comes to immigration rallies, from television coverage, it does not seem that African-Americans show up in droves to fight for Latinos dealing with unjust laws like family separation at the border.
Not too many African-Americans have criticized Farrakhan for anti-Semitic comments, and he does deserve criticism because he is a man like everyone else and not perfect.
People often care more about their plight and the plight of others from similar backgrounds than they do about the plight of others.
With that reality, how can anyone say that racism is a thing of the past or that America has entered into a post-racial society like many said after the first election of former President Barack Obama?
What we have is a society that does not really care about their brothers and sisters, but have learned to put up a façade and say just the right things to not appear racist, as comedian D.L. Hughley once said on “The Original Kings of Comedy.”
But if we truly want to live in post-racial America, we have to turn this country into a post-apathetic America, or better yet, an empathetic America.