Friday, May 7, 2010

White people lack empathy for brown people, brain research shows.


Sent to you by moya via Google Reader:


via Knowing Coves on 5/4/10

White people lack empathy for brown people, brain research shows.:



Most white people just don't see us as humans. When brown people die through violence, or East Asians express joy or sadness through our faces, most white people's brains just don't register the human connection between our bodies and their bodies. When we watch movies and TV shows and read books featuring white protagonists, we have to put ourselves into white people's shoes to understand the stories and feel the emotions of sadness, laughter, and pride. But people of colour are rarely the protagonists in the media that white people watch, so they rarely or never have to imagine themselves as us.

I would add that not only do white people "rarely or never have to imagine themselves as us", but they also actively cultivate hostility, disdain, and disgust toward us. I have 39 years of experience with this reality and more detailed data than I can possibly share.

As a young boy, I was twice physically beaten by white elementary school principals in their respective offices, with no witnesses, as punishment for standing up for myself against white kids in school. I don't think beating a Chinese boy struck them as abusive at all, more like a chore. In countless fistfights with white boys, I gave at least as good as I got, but teachers and principals almost always backed up their own. Many white liberals would probably be baffled to hear me say that this didn't particularly bother me at the time. I never complained about it, never cried. I never thought that I should be treated the same as others, I just went with how things were. And I just always knew I was stronger than all those people who attacked me, which surely made them hate me more, filled them with malice and a need to hurt me. But they could never touch me.

But the thing that did greatly upset me, the event which fully radicalized me as an anti-racist, was the Rwandan genocide in 1994. I was already an activist, I'd protested police brutality and the US prison system as a teenager in LA. I had a decent, if somewhat basic, grasp of racism in the US. I had also traveled widely by then, had spent time in the Third World, had seen probably over 30 countries and was far from naive. But when the massacre in Rwanda happened, I remember sitting at work, in my suit and tie, frozen with horror and grief, while all the white people simply went about their day without skipping a beat. I tried talking about it with a few white colleague-friends but they just shrugged. I remember walking around downtown Manhattan, looking at all the white people in suits, and losing my mind that hundreds of thousands of people were being killed. White people in the heart of empire could not care less about brown bodies at the edge of empire. In fact they cracked racist jokes about it. I took a week off work to process my emotions and grapple with my understanding of these people among whom I had become immersed in my young professional life. This time, I cried and cried. I finally understood that something was deeply broken inside these people, broken on purpose, broken in order to break humanity itself, broken in order to spill nonchalant oceans of blood.

After that shattering experience, I started making different decisions about my social and professional life. I steered myself toward POC-centric spaces, inwardly and outwardly. I got more heavily into anti-racism. I read up on the history of Rwanda and of the entire region. I studied colonialism and corporatism and gradually deepened my views of white supremacism and world events. I pushed my career in new directions, hit some lucky buttons, started working on my own POC-owned-and-operated businesses. I carved out my own autodidactic anti-racist consciousness. Actually that's what I'm still doing.

As for white people who can't read emotion on East Asian faces, these are stupid people who don't deserve to see our emotions anyway. Their gaze falls far short of our hearts, and I feel fine.


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