If The Antidote To Rage Includes Compassion and Empathy...

Following is a reply I made on Medium on the topics of race, unequal protection of fundamental rights, whether our fundamental American values are to be vilified as lies or half-truths.

I like what I wrote so I am reposting it below.

…watching the lie (“America is a free country!” + “Liberty and justice for all!”) that aids many white Americans in ignoring our struggle entirely is equally painful and infuriating.

But this section where she talks about “watching the lie”, suggests who her core audience is not: white Americans. And I think that is a harmful choice if you don’t like the way things are. You won’t change the system unless you enroll some of them to the cause.

Why do I say that Matti specifically excludes white Americans? Because of her use of active voice: “white Americans **ignore** our struggle”.

My opinion: You can’t observe “ignoring”. But you can observe “inaction”.

Another opinion: Just as I cannot look at Matti’s article and know her full intent in writing it, she cannot look at inaction and determine the intent of white Americans.

Per the top hit on my google search, America in 2016 is:

  • 62% White
  • 18% Hispanic
  • 12% Black
  • 6% Asian

I will wager that the level of **inaction** in regards to the struggle of black people is about equal for all of the non-black categories: White, Asian, Hispanic. I don’t think that Asians, Hispanics, or Whites deserve special blame for **ignoring** the equal protection of the fundamental rights of Black Americans.

So in regards to calling out white Americans specifically, saying that they “ignore” actively is a provocative generalization which undermines the strength of any communication. It creates an opportunity to dismiss her writing as biased in spite of the many truths within. And we cannot begin to think about modifying the system without enrolling a large chunk of that 62%.

If the antidote to rage includes compassion and empathy, here are some things I notice about people, no matter what their race:

  • They feel fundamentally unable to change the system and, even though it is clearly not designed for Black Americans, it is also not designed for anyone who doesn't happen to be wealthy enough to buy a legislator.
  • They are, daily, fighting through struggles of their own. They have to pick their battles. They may not have chosen ours. (And if we think they ought to, it is up to us to persuade them to do so, taking full responsibility for the outcome.).
  • They have limited attention spans and **ignore** most of everything that goes on around them because that’s one of the key functions of their brains in order to manage all there is to notice.

These are true for whites as much as anyone else. It’s true for Muslims. It’s true for gays.

We are all human. Most of us are more worried about the world than we admit.

Most of us are too caught up in some kind of game, trying to learn and cope with rules for a game we didn’t choose but started playing somehow anyway.

Most of us never even ask if the game is worth playing.

Most of us don’t even notice that we’re playing a game.

A final opinion — This is the real battle: We’re not trying to get people to stop ignoring injustice, we’re trying to get them to notice it. To understand the importance of turning their attention toward fighting it in spite of their own pressing struggles. To take the time to patiently talk and come up with ideas about where to begin. To craft a long-term vision which will inspire persistent action.