Tuesday, August 18, 2020

When Empathy is Not Enough

At least once a week, maybe twice I cycle or walk Beach Drive in West Seattle. Every time I pass this memorial at Seacrest Park it gives me pause, brings tears to my eyes. I am often pulled to a stop by an invisible thread, to see, to read, to honor the dead. 

I do not know who created this memorial or even when. I do not know who periodically adds photos or changes the flowers. It does not matter. What I do know is that I photographed it on July 20. A month ago I took dozens of photos I never posted. So why now?

I was inspired by Michelle Obama’s words last night at the Democratic National Convention, by her challenge to move our empathy to action, action that will move our country toward a racially just home for all:

... it is up to us to add our voices and our votes to the course of history, echoing heroes like John Lewis who said, “When you see something that is not right, you must say something. You must do something.” That is the truest form of empathy: not just feeling, but doing; not just for ourselves or our kids, but for everyone, for all our kids.

These photos in my phone have been a painful personal reminder of injustice, of violence, of hatred. But I have used my empathy for nothing. I have done nothing. Now, I share a few of them with a plea to vote, to request your ballot now and to vote early. 

I do not know if a new president can alone change the direction our country has taken for the past four years, but I do know that we cannot survive another four years on the same crash course we are on now. A course of racist and sexist violence and a denial of science that has led to over a 160,000 COVID deaths, a number that continues to grow.

As I stare into the eyes of my tiny White grandson, I want a better country, a more just world for him and for all the babies – Brown, Black and White – born during this time of COVID-19, of economic insecurity, of racial injustice.

These 186 people, young and old, were murdered. Some for their political voice. Most for simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time. All for the color of their skin. 

This is not the country I want my grandson to inherit, a country with a long history of systematic racism. We must do better, be better. We must elect representatives who will listen, who will acknowledge and change the racist policies continuing to shape our country. Four hundred years of racist policies.

I believe my vote matters. I believe your vote matters.

I believe we can change if we listen beyond the headlines, if we read our history from all voices, if we question the beliefs held by the dominate White culture.

I believe we must change, if not for ourselves, for our children. For our grandchildren.

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