70 years ago, during the Civil Rights Movement, Blacks mobilized to fight the violence and prejudice they endured generation after generation. The suffering of the Black community is wrong on all accounts, so it should have ended then. The struggle for justice and equality should have been resolved then. The riots and rebellions should have been addressed then. Yet—even today—Blacks are still marginalized in America. Time and time again, we have mourned the loss of innocent Black lives.
From slavery to Jim Crow Laws to segregation in housing, education, and facilities, Blacks have tolerated the corruptness of an unjust society. They have been racked with the pain of constantly proving their humanity. We must hear their voices and exhibit basic decency and humanity through our actions. The first step to alleviating inequities, being inclusive, and standing against discrimination is being a more empathetic person.
Empathy is placing yourself in another person’s shoes and using that to guide your actions. It is understanding others emotions and seeing things from their perspective. When you see another person enduring hardship and suffering, the best way you can respond is with empathy. Do your best to feel their pain and act in a kind way. Ask yourself, how are they feeling? What are they thinking? How have their past experiences influenced their current thoughts and emotions? Am I making assumptions about their life based on what my life is like? Listen to what they have to say. The more we listen to other people’s experiences and acknowledge our own privileges, the more we can minimize biases and perceived differences. We must move beyond ourselves and understand the lives of others.
It is critical to self-reflect. Remember, empathy is not something we wake up with the next day. It is a quality that we practice and develop overtime. Some ways to reflect are: How can I use my words and actions to be an example for others? What kinds of books can I read that discuss the fight against prejudice and inequality? Who in my community can I speak to regarding biases? How can I nurture empathy within my social groups? When was the last time I had to think about my race? Has someone ever antagonized me, yelled a racial slur at me or called me derogatory names because of the color of my skin? What kinds of narratives about Black people exist, and how can I dispel those stereotypes? How can I educate my family members about microaggressions against Black people that perpetuate inequality?
All citizens ultimately deserve equality and justice, so let’s care for each other. Listen to underrepresented communities and use activism to enact change. Once we are able to empathize with others, we can amplify the voices of marginalized groups—today, tomorrow, and everyday.
I encourage you to reflect on how you can expand your empathy. We all have different privileges. We have different identities and points of views. But remember, you do not have to be Black to recognize the anger and pain of the Black community. Below are some resources to educate yourself about the current protests, violence, lawsuits, fundraisers, and inequities in order to respond compassionately and appropriately towards individuals who are underrepresented. Become an ally in the Black community’s resilient fight. During a time when the pleading cries and voices of Black people still go unheard and a legacy of bigotry and inequality persists, we must choose empathy. As Barack Obama once said, “Learning to stand in somebody else’s shoes, to see through their eyes, that’s how peace begins. And it is up to you to make that happen.”
What can you do to support community organizations that are advocating for justice?
1. Donate to fund racial justice:
What resources can you access through UCLA?
2. Attend the UCLA RISE Center’s Live and Virtual Programs for self-guided healing and meditation:
Health disparities are a kind of inequity and injustice. Read about how minorities are affected by differences in health care:
1. Visit the Office of Minority Health to educate yourself on how minority populations are affected by health disparities: https://www.minorityhealth.hhs.gov/omh/browse.aspx?lvl=1&lvlid=3
2. Read the Center for Disease Control and Prevention to learn about how minorities are more vulnerable to disease during the COVID-19 pandemic: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/racial-ethnic-minorities.html
How can you educate yourself and others to make change?
1. Learn how to be an ally, and what allies can do: http://www.ywcahbg.org/sites/default/files/manager/10%20Things%20Allies%20Can%20Do.pdf
2. Share knowledge with your teachers and educators about how to discuss race in school: http://neaedjustice.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/Talk-About-Race-in-the-Classroom.pdf
3. Learn how to build empathy (standing up for others, checking your privilege, reading books, having respectful conversations): https://www.nytimes.com/guides/year-of-living-better/how-to-be-more-empathetic