Empathy. We’ve heard this word used before. We feel empathy for our friends and loved ones, and in disastrous circumstances, for victims we haven’t met. But, can someone who doesn’t interact with or know people from a different culture feel empathy for them?
I question this as I watch week after week another person of color lose their life in the custody of police. Should empathy – the ability to share or understand the feelings of another – in pain and distress be expected from aggressive or racist police who assault and victimize countless human beings?
According to a report published earlier this year in the Wall Street Journal about empathy, “Science has amply demonstrated that, when we are stressed, there are adverse consequences for our blood pressure, digestive tract, immune system and so on. This research shows that, when we are stressed, there are also adverse consequences for those stuck being around us.” The article also reports that when people are in stressful situations they are less likely to empathize with a stranger in distress than someone familiar to them.