A blog response to recent events by C. Lynn Brinkley
Empathy, where are you? Did you forget your name? Have you gone into hiding? Did someone snatch you from the face of this earth?
I have been looking for you!
I have spent recent weeks trying to understand why you left. Did you become so bothered by our unwillingness to walk in your shoes and feel your pain that you went into self-quarantine?
Did those who refused to wear masks in public or failed to practice social distancing upset you? Did a knee in the neck or in the NFL separate us? Have the recent protests prompted by the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, the cries that “Black Lives Matter,” the lootings, the attacks on police, the burnings of sacred buildings, the tear gas, the peaceful protests, the walk to St. John’s church, did these things cause you to escape our hearts?
Wait! I have seen glimpses of you. You made a cameo in the text I received the other day from my white brother who wanted to “apologize for his privilege.” You snuck into a video conference call I had with white sisters and brothers who felt the need to speak truth to power! You called me through the voice of a white Baptist woman in ministry who wants to use her platform to speak out against injustice. I have seen statements from institutions and denominational bodies, but part of you is missing.
Empathy, you have been playing “peak-a-boo” with me, and I am tired of this game! As Fannie Lou Hamer once said, “I am sick and tired of being sick and tired.” I am tired of hearing, “All Lives Matter” (which I do believe), but not right now! Empathy, instead of saying, “All Lives Matter,” will you allow me the grace to grieve the obvious? Too many black mamas are burying their sons and daughters that die unjustly. Empathy, come home and show others a pain they have never seen, a name worth knowing, and a cause worth fighting for. Come back, Empathy, and move privilege to protest, anger to compassion, and grief to justice.
I am thankful for my white friends who have called in recent days to check on me. Consistently, you all have asked, “What can I do?” Honestly, I don’t have all the answers, but I think there are some initial steps you can take to BE AWARE!
Break the Silence! Don’t allow family, friends, colleagues, and church members to prevent you from speaking out against racist rhetoric.
Embrace Diversity! Your children and grandchildren will live in a more diverse world, so you need to teach them NOW the richness they will gain by embracing diversity.
Act Justly! Visit or contact your local and state officials, donate to a worthy cause, sign petitions, participate in peaceful protests, become an advocate for justice and go vote!
Watch! Help us watch, record, and be present when you witness disturbing encounters between the police and people of color.
Acknowledge your privilege and push against it.
Read works by James Cone, Kelly Brown Douglas, Robin DiAngelo, and Michelle Alexander to name a few.
Engage with Empathy! This goes both ways. We all need to feel our way into another person’s shoes. I challenge us to live, preach, and model empathy because that’s what Jesus did.
As Lenny Luchetti writes, “Jesus embodied and emphasized empathy. He lived it and longed for it in others. Empathy is not about being nice or harmonious. Jesus’s empathy drove him to seek freedom and justice for all even if it meant going into the temple and boldly confronting justice (Mark 11:12-26).
Lynn Brinkley is a native of Fayetteville, NC and associate director at Baptist Women in Ministry.