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The Human League

Well, the only truly effective weapon we have is our ability to do the one thing they can’t…Empathize. They dehumanize their victims, we humanize the killers.

Jason, on Criminal Minds

This quote blew me away when I heard it. The way to stop absolute evil is to stop seeing it as something totally alien to you.

Today, I’m finding this advice really hard to follow.

A group in Charlottesville, Virginia got together to proclaim the superiority of white people. At the event, someone drove into a group of protestors, killing one and injuring dozens. I don’t wantto empathize with them. I want to put myself as far away from them as possible. I want distance from the whole group of white supremacists. They don’t speak for me. They don’t proclaim the secret desires of my heart. They’re working to make life harder for a lot of people I know and love whose ancestors happen to come from different places than mine did, and that’s nothing I want any part of.

I want our world to be a better place, and that dream seems very, very far away today.

What could I possibly find that is human about people who choose to belong to white supremacy groups? If forced to talk to them, the first thing out of my mouth would be, “Why in the world do you think the white race is supreme? What is inherently better about being more prone to skin cancer than any other group on the planet?”

Of course, on the show, they don’t try to justify the killers’ behavior. They try to find out why they do what they do so they can stop them from doing it again, not so they can explain why it makes sense.

Why do these people do what they do? I don’t know. All I can tell is that by and large, people who do horrific things in the name of their own whiteness are angry. Having spent perhaps a third of my life in therapy, I know that anger often comes out in ways totally unrelated to its source. Right now, I’m angry that my cat has cancer in her intestines and I can’t fix it. Our lives now revolve around shots and pills and vet visits and at best, all of that will only slow the cancer down. I don’t blame Zoe, and getting angry at cancer as a concept doesn’t provide me any catharsis, so I take my anger out in other ways. I resent the frustrations that come up in my job more than usual. When I’m driving, I scream words I don’t even like to admit I know at people who cut me off in traffic. People who decided my friendship wasn’t worth the effort – usually white people, FYI – cross my mind and I cry and blame them for my present pain even though they’ve been out of my life for years. Granted, none of these things brings me great joy, even at the best of times, but right now, a part of me knows it’s a lot easier to blame them than to deal with the fact that my best little furry girl won’t be around forever.

So right now, maybe I can just say that the people who choose to frequent white supremacy rallies have anger roiling around inside of them. I just hope that they begin to realize, no one can help the source of that hurt – the real source, which I’m sure has nothing to do with non-white skin – until they take a really hard look at themselves and get some help and figure out what it is.

Until I can find anymore empathy than that, I will say some prayers for the family of the woman who died in Charlottesville, the woman whose life someone took because of that misplaced, unreasonable anger. Her name was Heather Heyer. She worked for a law firm. An attorney met her while she was working at as a bartender and food server. She was good with people, could get them to talk to her, and he realized how valuable that could be to his practice. “If you can get people to open up to you, that’s what I need,” Alfred Wilson told her. “I’ll teach you everything about the law you need to know.” (New York Times) She was single, like me, and she lived with her Chihuahua, Violet. I’ll say some prayers for Violet, too. As someone who’s been contemplating life what life would be like without her best friend lately, I find my heart going out to her most of all.

I do believe we have to find the human being within the monster in order to make the world a better place, but damn it, some days it’s more than I can do.

Kimberly is going to stop writing now so she can spend time with people from very different backgrounds who remind her that there is still good in the world.

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