If you hear someone describe our society as “Post-racial,” those words will always be coming from a privileged mouth, and will usually be coming from a white person’s mouth. Watching the new film Fruitvale Station, thinking about the injustice that Oscar Grant and countless other young men of color have faced, thinking about George Zimmerman and the fear of young men of color that led to him killing Trayvon Martin, and that the same fear permeates our society. Thinking about the declining middle class, and the decline of higher education opportunities, with student loan rates set to double. Thinking about the political apathy that seems to dominate modern life, and the narcissism that keeps people apathetic and unaware of the systemic problems that exist around us. Thinking about the lack of popular support for increased gun laws.
When will the “haves” recognize that we are really all “have-nots” as long as we sit silently and let our freedoms erode? Do something positive. Start conversations. If you hear the term “Post-racial,” look at the mouth that is saying it. Don’t be afraid to be political. Politics surrounds us, is embedded in our lives, whether we acknowledge it or not.
Talk to the person with that mouth. Do they read? If they do, tell them to read George Packer‘s new book on the decline of the middle class, to read Melissa Harris-Perry articulate how the personal is also the political, to read Ta-Nehisi Coates consider the reality of what Obama in the White House means or his response to the Zimmerman verdict, or really…just read anything, it doesn’t have to be non-fiction. If they don’t read, ask them why not. Ask them to describe what empathy means. Teach them. They need to consider what their apathy and lack of empathy mean.
It’s no surprise that empathy is on the steep decline among younger Americans, while the average attention-span has dwindled from 12 seconds to 8 seconds in the last 12 years. Reading forces the reader into the mind and heart of another, and out of the narcissistic worldview that refuses to acknowledge privilege, racism, or anything else that might indicate that we are all part of the human race. And that refusing to acknowledge your own privilege is also a refusal to maintain your own humanity.