Empathy. Friend or Foe?

Recent events have showcased many mixed feelings among different groups of people. The highly publicized events in Ferguson surrounding the death of Michael Brown, John Crawford, and Vonderriit Myers Jr. who were all shot by a police officer has created quite a stir. In so many words a race war ensued pointing accusatory fingers and waves of reasons for justifications on both sides. Along with the very controversial news coverage – social media exploded with support and damnation for the victim and perpetrator. The comments differ on distinguishing who the victim and perpetrator actually are named. Among the range of comments I have read on social media, one on my Facebook seemed to pinpoint a very serious issue that no one else has seemed to address.

    Why does everyone keep making this about race, where is the humanity?

Humanity. Where is our obligation to have empathy for one another? To further examine that, the question should not be where is the humanity. The question is and always has been, how is the concept of humanity used? Daily we are shown incidents of death by merciless murderers, uniformed officers using excessive force, causalities of war, or brutality fueled by hate. The answer is looming all around in plain sight. The level of empathy for another person is dependent on how they are viewed. The art of dehumanization enables the mind to disassociate itself with actions that are less than sub-par.

This practice has been seen across civilizations and generations allowing for others to seize and maintain power as well as to implement inhumane punishments based on a flawed morality. Colonization, slavery, the feudal system, tribal wars, imprisonment, apartheid, and public executions highlight the dangerous exploits of the human mind that allow us to view another life as expendable.

It is easy to attribute this type of behavior to survival. Our ancestors survival was based primarily on beating out the competition. Competition for resources whether abundant or scarce create a sort of animosity between humans. Over time the instinctual notions of this animosity began to breed subconscious hatred. One could say that this was the beginning of the loss of empathy for others and the destruction of humanity.

Times may come where the pull of a string of the heart may insight empathy from others. These instances seem to become more rare and need to meet a list of qualifications. The basics starting with: who, what, where, when and how? Those five words are the basis on how we determine who is deserving.

Can this instinctual turned learned hatred be reversed? You would think that the massive societal advances in the human race would trigger would a kill switch on this type of thinking. What some fail to realize is in time our instinctual needs adapt to these changes. Survival is always an inevitable part of living no matter how progressive the surroundings. Therefore, empathy will remain where it has always remained- stuck underneath the plight of humanity.