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My Trauma is Not Your Thought Experiment: On Oppressive Empathy

This article made me nauseous. A white man had the nerve to make a positive observation regarding your plight and instead of welcoming the dialogue you immediately put him down in a racist and pretentious hissy fit, proclaiming that the only way he is entitled to address you is to first cower in front of you and profess endless apologetic shame for his races’ endless oppression of your peopled. SHAME! This kind of behavior is the root of divisiveness. You are not oppressed.

At The Intersection

When it comes to anti-oppression work, I have a problem with empathy. Or rather, I have problem with the ways in which people with privilege and power enact so-called empathy. The ways in which it always seems to demand a centering of their thoughts, feelings, emotions, and experiences in a narrative that otherwise should be about the trauma they enact, knowingly or unknowingly, intentionally or unintentionally, on the oppressed.

Here’s what I mean.

A couple months ago Zoé, a beautiful Black woman with a lot of powerful things to share, tweeted a story about having a conversation with another Black woman about racism in different national contexts. It was a life-giving session of shared truths and traumas, as often happens when women of color are blessed to be in honest communion with one another. After their trauma-baring and sharing talk, a white man sitting nearby turned to them to…

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