Empathy: Examining How We Decide Which Lives #Matter

The hashtag #blacklivesmatter has become well-known in popular culture, mostly by those who are black but also among those who are not, and in it's bold nature it has received both support and backlash. In response to the hashtag, and the movement behind it--most likely with furrowed brows and angry keyboard smashing movements--people have created the #alllivesmatter hashtag and movement. Because how dare we single out one group of people and say that their lives matter, without acknowledging the importance of every other group in existence?

The way I see it, the "all lives matter" hashtag and movement is the middle child, "Ms. Louise what-about-me!" "that's not fair," "but me too," meninist, attention-seeking, narcissistic, self-pitying bastard of all hashtags. And I believe this because it was created from the ignorant assumption that the "black lives matter" hashtag implies that only black lives matter. Ignorance is blissful, but intelligence and empathy will take us a lot further as a human race and most likely prevent a lot of unnecessary conflict. No one thinks only black lives matter. ALL LIVES MATTER. 

BUT MY PEOPLE, EMPATHY EMPATHY EMPATHY. My favorite word, concept and philosophy. Just feel for one another. That's all we can ask for. For the ability to look beyond oneself and understand the struggles others face and the lives that they live. Even if they are radically different from our own. Even if it means focusing on another group of people for a little bit. Believe it or not it is possible and surprisingly simple to empathize. It just takes a bit of basic, human anatomy (a brain and heart), willingness to think outside of your own box and an active effort. 


Yes, all lives matter but right now, given the state of things, we seem to have to remind one another that BLACK LIVES MATTER. That the lives of black people are no less than the lives of others. We have to use hashtags to spread awareness and ask for the bare minimum: for us to care about another human being. All lives matter but right now they aren't all under threat. Right now black lives hold no value to others and we plaster #blacklivesmatter everywhere we can as a reminder of something we seem to have forgotten or maybe never even fully realized.

If we can feel for Paris and the victims of mass tragedies such as 9/11 and school shootings, if we can feel for victims of the holocaust and of genocides of rapes and other violent acts, we can feel for a race under fire for being born darker than society has deemed acceptable or deserving of compassion. For when we decide that one life matters and another does not, we take empathy out of the equation and refuse to feel -- let alone think of the effect this might have them.

A life is a life is a life. It's not yours to take, but do take it in, accept the presence of something or someone you may not agree with or even like and accept the possible similarities between you when you pick them apart for being different. Accept that your life may have more value right now than others and that if it takes a goddamn hashtag to remind people to empathize and remind them that a certain group of people matter, the least you could do is let them have that. Even if you don't believe their lives matter let them remind people that they do and accept that fact that they won't wait for your permission to do so. 


#sayhername #sayhisname #saytheirnames #knowtheirnames


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