Skip to main content

Originally published at Tikkun Daily |

Yesterday, I hiked from my house and through the meandering trails of our local, city park, to a favorite bar of mine for an afternoon drink. As a teacher with the summer off, it's something I like to do when taking a break from writing.

At the bar, MSNBC was on the big screen, its subtitles scrolling, scurrying to keep up. The coverage was on Zimmerman and Trayvon and pain. A pain that still has not dissipated.

I sat down and ordered a local brew from Eli, the bartender, before turning my attention to the screen. It was a quiet, slow afternoon, and we struck up a conversation about the injustice of it all, about this country we live in.

Eli and I are both white.

So too was the gentleman who was sitting a stool over from me. He was probably in his mid-40s, with neat hair and wearing a suit, and was listening to our conversation – I noticed him watching us curiously.

When a lull hit, he took a swig, leaned toward me over the empty chair between us and said, "It's just white guilt."

"What is?" I asked.

"All this obsession about the trial. Don't get me wrong, it's a bad thing. But it's not any worse than anything else. You're just still talking about it, you and Eli, because of white guilt."

I shook my head as Eli laughed, leaning over the bar and listening, having nothing else to do.

"So what?" Eli finally said. "There's a lot to feel guilty about, don'tcha think?"

"Me personally? No." the man in the suit said. "I get that it's a bad story, but I don't get how you guys talk like it's your story."

"My story?" I asked.

"Yeah, like it happened to you."

I looked at him and said, "It's because you're wrong about why I care. It's not 'white guilt,' it's empathy."

He shrugged as the television when to commercial, and ordered a drink. For me. "Because I feel bad for you," he said lightheartedly.  And that's where the conversation ended, on the topic of the trial, at least.

But walking home, I continued the conversation in my head, because what I had said was true. Although I'm not black, and have never experienced personally what it is like to live with dark skin in America, I have absorbed so many stories, and have invested myself in so many stories, that I have come to empathize with, I have come to care about, those who must face bigotry and racism in our country. Empathy is why I care about the racism that still exists in our society. And its resulting injustices.

It's why, as a white American, I cried after the Zimmerman verdict. It's why, as a Jew, I have cried at the suffering of Palestinians. It's why, as a parent of two beautiful girls, I've cried for parents who have lost their own.

Because empathy is transformative, and is something we need more of to mold the society justice demands of America.

 

Originally posted to David Harris-Gershon (The Troubadour) on Tue Jul 16, 2013 at 06:23 AM PDT.

Also republished by Writing by David Harris Gershon.

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Jill, Ed in Montana, Terri, Alexa, Trendar, Powered Grace, Bob Love, surfbird007, Emerson, Debby, Shockwave, Charles CurtisStanley, celdd, expatjourno, Heart of the Rockies, Gustogirl, TheMomCat, Wee Mama, annrose, undercovercalico, djMikulec, Ian S, boadicea, mikidee, shanikka, Mber, fumie, splashy, aitchdee, k9disc, Serendipity, Redfire, Texknight, NMRed, kharma, psnyder, annan, Miss Jones, wordene, texasmom, niteskolar, DSC on the Plateau, chantedor, RuralLiberal, LucyTooners, nswalls, zerelda, Sembtex, hayden, Steven D, rambler american, Josiah Bartlett, murrayewv, Gowrie Gal, Ohkwai, A Citizen, Bluesee, ichibon, freakofsociety, JanetT in MD, SherwoodB, newfie, Tonedevil, Chinton, chimene, democracy inaction, ccasas, dewtx, EJP in Maine, FutureNow, eru, marathon, SaraBeth, Sun Tzu, aarrgghh, lotlizard, Ice Blue, Little Lulu, Hastur, sunbro, kaliope, spunhard, WisePiper, turdraker, Beezzley, peacestpete, mightymouse, begone, WuChier, martini, detroitmechworks, tommymet, Kingsmeg, Gorette, koNko, rhetoricus, mystery2me, Lefty Coaster, blueoasis, erratic, katrinka, Preston S, Clive all hat no horse Rodeo, cherryXXX69, shaharazade, Statusquomustgo, Mr Horrible, Quicklund, Nulwee, ammasdarling, One Pissed Off Liberal, dov12348, out of left field, Habitat Vic, leema, paz3, gloriana, EdSF, linkage, beth meacham, edsbrooklyn, Mary Mike, gustynpip, newpioneer, davehouck, artisan, US Blues, cyncynical, Back In Blue, jhop7, carpunder, CT Hank, cececville, leonard145b, nspguy, Korkenzieher, Empower Ink, MKinTN, mconvente, jack 1966, hulagirl, poligirl, OleHippieChick, Youffraita, Foundmyvoice, Involuntary Exile, Fe Bongolan, Laughing Vergil, filby, Buckeye Nut Schell, jamess, mikeconwell, NYmama, Cassandra Waites, hwmnbn, madame damnable, bluesheep, vernonbc, home solar, mofembot, codairem, petulans, elpacifico66, get the red out, nokkonwud, Parthenia, BYw, Quilldriver, Mad Season, HoosierDeb, dmhlt 66, GrannyOPhilly, shortgirl, ZhenRen, maxcat06, Celtic Merlin, prettygirlxoxoxo, multilee, Ripeness Is All, J M F, greengemini, lostinamerica, cantelow, Nebraskablue, maryabein, rem123, Partisan Progressive, jennylind, mkor7, aunt blabby, virginwoolf, kravitz, elziax, dskoe, bfitzinAR, histOries Marko, sfarkash, jfromga, Livvy5, hamsisu, joe from Lowell, montecristo, Edge PA, deviant24x, nocynicism, catilinus, Vita Brevis, Lefty Ladig, Railfan, commonmass, smileycreek, confitesprit, awcomeon, FogCityJohn, NJpeach, CcVenussPromise, eb23, DrWhk, jvance, gulfgal98, samanthab, pixxer, Lady Libertine, OnlyWords, Kristina40, addisnana, Betty Pinson, Patate, Oh Mary Oh, soaglow, slice, Onomastic, Front Toward Enemy, Dretutz, ozsea1, StateofEuphoria, slowbutsure, vahana, FarWestGirl, kevin k, SoCaliana, mrsgoo, Cinnamon, smoothnmellow, worldlotus, FreeWoman19, peregrine kate, Tommy T, chira2, VTCC73, wide eyed lib, zenox, leftykook, dradams, jham710, jadt65, caryltoo, Mathazar, BlueDragon, SuWho, Eowyn9, anodnhajo, Mindful Nature, Siri, teachered, nellgwen, tb92, midgebaker, orangecurtainlib, a2nite, 2thanks, FloridaSNMOM, Horace Boothroyd III, This old man, cherie clark, The Voice from the Cave, belinda ridgewood, Free Jazz at High Noon, radical simplicity, Lilredhead, doroma, The Dude 415, Brown Thrasher, Margd, oldpotsmuggler, rat racer, wasatch, ShoshannaD, Hammerhand, BobTheHappyDinosaur, corpsechorus, GoGoGoEverton, Silvia Nightshade, Chaddiwicker, onceasgt, TheMeansAreTheEnd, The grouch, newinfluence, smokey545, Linda1961, remembrance, Thornrose, gypsytoo, SixSixSix, Yo Bubba, Alhambra, birdfeeder, knitwithpurpose, Jollie Ollie Orange, LilithGardener, duhban, Kombema, Gardener in PA, The Marti, Vijaya, DKBurton, Catana, something59

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site