How well can you empathize with someone not like you?

  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Jul 16, 2013 2:05 AM GMT
    I was rereading the Trayvon Martin thread and responding to some threads on it on a Facebook group I'm part of and something struck. I find it odd how some people side with Zimmerman over the victim but it's not just about him. I think this case has revealed a lot about how well some people can or can't relate and empathize with the pains and struggles of other people.

    There is this young boy considers me a mentor and he is gay and I often give him life tips since he's headed where I've been before. Now this kid HD white, comes from the upper middle class, doesn't really know what it's like to struggle or whatnot. And Sunday I damn near slapped him because he write that Trayvon deserved to die and there was justice for Zimmerman. I got mad and asked him why he said it and he said it's because he did weed, and he had issues in school and all that. And I asked the boy well how is that any different from you? there's been plenty of times where you needed money to pay off the weed man you owed. You got kicked out of schools for how you acted. He couldn't see the comparison. And then he asked me why black people make everything about race and so on and so forth.

    I got mad at him and several other white associates because they just don't get it. But then I realized people can only be so empathetic to a point. I consider myself rather well rounded and I pride myself on being able to relate to even people who don't agree me. I remember a few years back after the first election of out current president has ended an old white man who was a family friend was driving me somewhere. I had hoped against hope he would vote Democrat but he was older white and wealthy so I wouldn't be surprised if he didn't. He had the radio on and it was some extremist conservative radio host. I asked him why he was listening to this when he certainly didn't share this man's extreme views. He told me that during world war 2 he used to routinely listen and read the Nazi propaganda. He said you can never know you disagree with what the other side is saying unless you actually listen to what they had to say. That stick with me.

    I noticed that some of my straight friends don't really get the gay rights struggle. Many of them assumed the only thing we wanted was the right to get married. I informed many of them about the larger issue at hand and they were shocked. Some of them became better for it. Some didn't. I notice the ones who didn't were the ones who just couldn't wrap their minds around two men being together. They couldn't imagine why someone would live that way. The same goes for a lot of people who can't relate to people of a different religion or a race or political view. sometimes you've got to meet people where they are.

    How empathetic are you to people who aren't like you?
  • Rhi_Bran

    Posts: 904

    Jul 16, 2013 2:23 AM GMT
    That's what I call the Great Anthropological Divide. You can never truly know what it's like to be a completely different person or have a completely different mindset - you can only make inferences based on what and who you are, and how far your personal knowledge extends.
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    Jul 16, 2013 2:36 AM GMT
    I'd have to disagree. I am outraged at the verdict in the Zimmerman trial and feel deeply empathetic to all flavors of social justice causes. For me at least, it has nothing to do with being able to relate to personally to victims. It's about having a sense of solidarity of principles rather than a common experience. If it were, it would be a divisive force rather than unifying.

    The thing that makes empathy is about understand another's point of view whereas sympathy is being in their shoes. Empathy is I know how you feel and sympathy is I feel how you feel. What makes empathy not only more powerful but more important is that it traverses boundaries that might divide classes, races, cultures, sexualities, etc..

    I can from an upper middle class white family and raised by deeply religious and more than a little racist parents. That doesn't define my view of the world though. There's a point in life when one's background and upbringing stop being excuses. That goes for biases and prejudices as well.
  • TannerMasseur

    Posts: 7893

    Jul 16, 2013 2:39 AM GMT
    Rhi_Bran saidThat's what I call the Great Anthropological Divide. You can never truly know what it's like to be a completely different person or have a completely different mindset - you can only make inferences based on what and who you are, and how far your personal knowledge extends.


    Kudos Rhi_Bran icon_smile.gif I tried to do it with my "FRIGHT 214" Empathy thread today, but ur statement just undermined it all. It's a dichotomy that I can believe in my thread wholeheartedly, but still consider ur point of view very valid icon_smile.gif .....
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    Jul 16, 2013 2:55 AM GMT
    I understand that it is really hard to fully grasp and understand how someone else would feel about something, or perceive something, especially if they are very unlike you in personality.

    I do understand that people are somewhat products of their environment, upbringing and influences growing up and thereafter and so I try my best to just accept and be happy that people are different.

    In relation to the case you're talking about OP, it's really hard and almost futile to expect Caucasian people to understand how it is to be a minority because they have never been and probably will never be.
    This reminds me of the post that Deki made about a letter he posted on his facebook.


    The problem is, when people box an 'idea' of what a person would be or should be, or what they're going to act like, their view is already narrowed.
    You make enough insinuations about a person or group of people, even before you've ever really interacted with them, and your mind is already made up and it will dictate how you treat them.

    I could probably go on more but this will be too long of a reply than it already is so I'll leave it there.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Jul 16, 2013 2:57 AM GMT


    "How well can you empathize with someone not like you?"

    Tragically easily.
  • TannerMasseur

    Posts: 7893

    Jul 16, 2013 2:58 AM GMT
    NerdMonastery saidI understand that it is really hard to fully grasp and understand how someone else would feel about something, or perceive something, especially if they are very unlike you in personality.

    I do understand that people are somewhat products of their environment, upbringing and influences growing up and thereafter and so I try my best to just accept and be happy that people are different.

    In relation to the case you're talking about OP, it's really hard and almost futile to expect Caucasian people to understand how it is to be a minority because they have never been and probably will never be.
    This reminds me of the post that Deki made about a letter he posted on his facebook.


    The problem is, when people box an 'idea' of what a person would be or should be, or what they're going to act like, their view is already narrowed.
    You make enough insinuations about a person or group of people, even before you've ever really interacted with them, and your mind is already made up and it will dictate how you treat them.

    I could probably go on more but this will be too long of a reply than it already is so I'll leave it there.


    All true NerdMonastery icon_smile.gif
  • TannerMasseur

    Posts: 7893

    Jul 16, 2013 2:59 AM GMT
    meninlove said

    "How well can you empathize with someone not like you?"

    Tragically easily.


    Ur so even keel meninlove icon_smile.gif We should all be more like u icon_smile.gif .....
  • Apparition

    Posts: 3529

    Jul 16, 2013 3:06 AM GMT
    i totally have no empathy for either of them. dont hispanics and black kids kill each other every damn day in the US? why is THIS story special? Why is the NSA thing not THE story instead of this petty little ethnic squabble. I mean this is WAY WAY bigger than watergate and they are STILL talking about that 4o years later.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Jul 16, 2013 3:08 AM GMT
    spgem said
    meninlove said

    "How well can you empathize with someone not like you?"

    Tragically easily.


    Ur so even keel meninlove icon_smile.gif We should all be more like u icon_smile.gif .....


    I should hope not!
  • TannerMasseur

    Posts: 7893

    Jul 16, 2013 3:09 AM GMT
    meninlove said
    spgem said
    meninlove said

    "How well can you empathize with someone not like you?"

    Tragically easily.


    Ur so even keel meninlove icon_smile.gif We should all be more like u icon_smile.gif .....


    I should hope not!


    Lol icon_smile.gif
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Jul 16, 2013 3:10 AM GMT
    How empathetic are you to people who aren't like you?
    The animal part of me makes me anger, but I dislike getting anger...That's why, whenever possible I always encourage the human part of me which is compassion and I'll try to respect them (but not their opinions, because it didn't satisfied my reasoning).

    If the person is arrogant, often I'm the first to get frustrated. In this case, I have to walk away, for there is no use in talking to them.
    If the person in biased, often they're the one who gets frustrated. In this case, they always raise their voice.

    In both cases, I feel sorry for them...for they are not willing to know the truth and instead stick to their own beliefs.
  • MikeW

    Posts: 6061

    Jul 16, 2013 3:13 AM GMT
    Where I'm from (rural midwest, child in the 1950s into the 60s) there were no blacks. There were no Jews. Hell, even Catholics were a minority and not well thought of. My family wasn't wealthy but working class. Still, though, in some ways a lot better off than many where I grew up. So when the civil rights movement began to get air time I was really kind of shocked. I wasn't offended by black people, I just didn't know any and didn't know anyone who did know any.

    Fast forward to my first year of college in Chicago, fall 1966. The school was on the south side, 36th St., and surrounded by a black ghetto. One afternoon not long after I moved into the dorm, I decided to take a walk into the neighborhood just to check it out. To be honest, I did not feel safe but I was curious. The further I went, though, the more angry I got. I couldn't believe the living conditions. I remember thinking, "No wonder these people are pissed off! I'd be mad as hell if I had to live like this." I was thinking specifically about the Watts and Division Street riots.

    This little excursion changed me. Not long after, I met the first black guys I ever knew. Doug lived in the same dorm I did, was originally from South Carolina and he and I became good friends. Another, Piere, was a friend of a friend, gay, and one of my first gay lovers.

    What interested me was how very different they were. Doug was straight, fairly militant (having been stabbed during a civil rights march when he was a teenager), incredibly bright and very talented. He played classical piano which, TBH, kind of blew my mind.

    Piere, on the other hand, was from New York city, very easy going and his life was mostly about socializing and living as an out, gay black man. He liked art, theatre, music, playing dress-up ("gender-fucking" it came to be called) and was somewhat "fem" but adorably cute.

    Where Doug was intellectual and serious, Piere was all fun and games. Interestingly, they met once and didn't like one another one bit! LOL! I lost track of both of them years ago and sometimes wonder whatever became of them. But the point is somehow I was able to put myself in their shoes a little bit. I'm white and have that experience and know that I don't know what it is like to grow up black. However, I do know what its like to grow up gay in a homophobic world. True, that's not the same thing but it is similar enough that I have some inner understanding of how prejudice works and know it isn't healthy for anyone.

    We all have so much to learn from one another if we'd just open to it.

  • Generaleclect...

    Posts: 504

    Jul 16, 2013 3:26 AM GMT
    It's amazing some of the biases and narrow-minded thoughts you find in yourself, especially when someone points it out to you.

    I think over time (at least in the US), we've conditioned ourselves to think of others as "ideas" instead of people, and that makes it harder to empathize.

    This is why you get ridiculous editorials like this one, asking if we should even care about a tragic event: http://www.queerty.com/question-should-lgbt-community-care-about-george-zimmerman-trial-verdict-20130715/
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Jul 16, 2013 3:27 AM GMT
    Empathy means you have a shared experience. Sympathy is that you emotionally connect to a person's individual experience. One can feel empathy for someone based on a similar experience, however.

    For example, I do feel great empathy for the family of Trayvon Martin, because my family and friends have lost loved ones to gun violence. I feel empathetic outrage at the racial injustice of the Zimmerman trial based on my own experience feeling outrage at the murder of Matthew Shepherd. I know race and sexual orientation are completely different issues, but the common thread of bigotry ties them together. I have a sense of social justice that won't allow me to just let things like the murder of Trayvon Martin go. This was a travesty of justice.
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    Jul 16, 2013 3:33 AM GMT
    Apparition saidi totally have no empathy for either of them. dont hispanics and black kids kill each other every damn day in the US? why is THIS story special? Why is the NSA thing not THE story instead of this petty little ethnic squabble. I mean this is WAY WAY bigger than watergate and they are STILL talking about that 4o years later.


    To be fair we've been talking about this case for almost two years now. It's been talked about way before the NSA thing became an issue.

    Also I don't think most people care about the NSA thing because most people aren't shocked that the US spies on us and others.
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    Jul 16, 2013 4:07 AM GMT
    EuphoricDanger saidI was rereading the Trayvon Martin thread and responding to some threads on it on a Facebook group I'm part of and something struck. I find it odd how some people side with Zimmerman over the victim but it's not just about him. I think this case has revealed a lot about how well some people can or can't relate and empathize with the pains and struggles of other people.

    There is this young boy considers me a mentor and he is gay and I often give him life tips since he's headed where I've been before. Now this kid HD white, comes from the upper middle class, doesn't really know what it's like to struggle or whatnot. And Sunday I damn near slapped him because he write that Trayvon deserved to die and there was justice for Zimmerman. I got mad and asked him why he said it and he said it's because he did weed, and he had issues in school and all that. And I asked the boy well how is that any different from you? there's been plenty of times where you needed money to pay off the weed man you owed. You got kicked out of schools for how you acted. He couldn't see the comparison. And then he asked me why black people make everything about race and so on and so forth.

    I got mad at him and several other white associates because they just don't get it. But then I realized people can only be so empathetic to a point. I consider myself rather well rounded and I pride myself on being able to relate to even people who don't agree me. I remember a few years back after the first election of out current president has ended an old white man who was a family friend was driving me somewhere. I had hoped against hope he would vote Democrat but he was older white and wealthy so I wouldn't be surprised if he didn't. He had the radio on and it was some extremist conservative radio host. I asked him why he was listening to this when he certainly didn't share this man's extreme views. He told me that during world war 2 he used to routinely listen and read the Nazi propaganda. He said you can never know you disagree with what the other side is saying unless you actually listen to what they had to say. That stick with me.

    I noticed that some of my straight friends don't really get the gay rights struggle. Many of them assumed the only thing we wanted was the right to get married. I informed many of them about the larger issue at hand and they were shocked. Some of them became better for it. Some didn't. I notice the ones who didn't were the ones who just couldn't wrap their minds around two men being together. They couldn't imagine why someone would live that way. The same goes for a lot of people who can't relate to people of a different religion or a race or political view. sometimes you've got to meet people where they are.

    How empathetic are you to people who aren't like you?


    I count myself as fully empathetic, but also fully objective, and I'm glad Zimmerman is free. I'll clarify my thoughts on this (and post it in a couple of days as my mind is lazy at the moment) in a separate thread that was made by another black RJ member on the case. I was actually going to mention you in my posting to that thread, as a person that looks beyond the trappings of race more readily than other black members on RJ, and that in spite of the feel good nature of his open letter and his intelligence, he is sadly enough, naive on many fronts about life in general and on being black in America.
  • MikeW

    Posts: 6061

    Jul 16, 2013 4:09 AM GMT
    EuphoricDanger said
    Apparition saidi totally have no empathy for either of them. dont hispanics and black kids kill each other every damn day in the US? why is THIS story special? Why is the NSA thing not THE story instead of this petty little ethnic squabble. I mean this is WAY WAY bigger than watergate and they are STILL talking about that 4o years later.


    To be fair we've been talking about this case for almost two years now. It's been talked about way before the NSA thing became an issue.

    Also I don't think most people care about the NSA thing because most people aren't shocked that the US spies on us and others.
    ^^^This. Anyone who doesn't know the NSA is compiling all our electronic communications is simply NOT paying attention. Not saying it isn't a big deal. It is, of course. But it is difficult to get upset about something so abstract and ubiquitous. As for you lack of empathy, icon_rolleyes.gif
  • samoscratch

    Posts: 124

    Jul 16, 2013 4:15 AM GMT
    Apparition saidi totally have no empathy for either of them. dont hispanics and black kids kill each other every damn day in the US? why is THIS story special? Why is the NSA thing not THE story instead of this petty little ethnic squabble. I mean this is WAY WAY bigger than watergate and they are STILL talking about that 4o years later.


    wtf...
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Jul 16, 2013 5:36 AM GMT
    Not at all. But then, I empathize with no one.

    "Having empathy" really means claiming to have empathy. Those who engage in it are actually only out for themselves.

    Ditto for anyone who claims to be for "social justice" (which is, incidentally, the most destructive idea ever conjured).

    It's condescension. Stop doing it.
  • outbackdude

    Posts: 242

    Jul 16, 2013 5:51 AM GMT
    I can pretend to empathize with everyone it doesn't mean I have empathy for everyone. Then there are people who just want your pity
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    Jul 16, 2013 6:18 AM GMT
    vballboy12 saidI'd have to disagree. I am outraged at the verdict in the Zimmerman trial and feel deeply empathetic to all flavors of social justice causes. For me at least, it has nothing to do with being able to relate to personally to victims. It's about having a sense of solidarity of principles rather than a common experience. If it were, it would be a divisive force rather than unifying.

    The thing that makes empathy is about understand another's point of view whereas sympathy is being in their shoes. Empathy is I know how you feel and sympathy is I feel how you feel. What makes empathy not only more powerful but more important is that it traverses boundaries that might divide classes, races, cultures, sexualities, etc..

    I can from an upper middle class white family and raised by deeply religious and more than a little racist parents. That doesn't define my view of the world though. There's a point in life when one's background and upbringing stop being excuses. That goes for biases and prejudices as well.


    George Zimmerman isn't like you. Do you have empathy for him?

    If you don't, then your claims of empathy are hollow, duplicitous, and hypocritical.
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    Jul 16, 2013 6:21 AM GMT
    MikeW saidWhere I'm from (rural midwest, child in the 1950s into the 60s) there were no blacks. There were no Jews. Hell, even Catholics were a minority and not well thought of. My family wasn't wealthy but working class. Still, though, in some ways a lot better off than many where I grew up. So when the civil rights movement began to get air time I was really kind of shocked. I wasn't offended by black people, I just didn't know any and didn't know anyone who did know any.

    Fast forward to my first year of college in Chicago, fall 1966. The school was on the south side, 36th St., and surrounded by a black ghetto. One afternoon not long after I moved into the dorm, I decided to take a walk into the neighborhood just to check it out. To be honest, I did not feel safe but I was curious. The further I went, though, the more angry I got. I couldn't believe the living conditions. I remember thinking, "No wonder these people are pissed off! I'd be mad as hell if I had to live like this." I was thinking specifically about the Watts and Division Street riots.

    This little excursion changed me. Not long after, I met the first black guys I ever knew. Doug lived in the same dorm I did, was originally from South Carolina and he and I became good friends. Another, Piere, was a friend of a friend, gay, and one of my first gay lovers.

    What interested me was how very different they were. Doug was straight, fairly militant (having been stabbed during a civil rights march when he was a teenager), incredibly bright and very talented. He played classical piano which, TBH, kind of blew my mind.

    Piere, on the other hand, was from New York city, very easy going and his life was mostly about socializing and living as an out, gay black man. He liked art, theatre, music, playing dress-up ("gender-fucking" it came to be called) and was somewhat "fem" but adorably cute.

    Where Doug was intellectual and serious, Piere was all fun and games. Interestingly, they met once and didn't like one another one bit! LOL! I lost track of both of them years ago and sometimes wonder whatever became of them. But the point is somehow I was able to put myself in their shoes a little bit. I'm white and have that experience and know that I don't know what it is like to grow up black. However, I do know what its like to grow up gay in a homophobic world. True, that's not the same thing but it is similar enough that I have some inner understanding of how prejudice works and know it isn't healthy for anyone.

    We all have so much to learn from one another if we'd just open to it.



    It's so awesome that you have no problem with black people. You should tell everyone about how wonderfully swell you are.
  • The_Guruburu

    Posts: 895

    Jul 16, 2013 6:21 AM GMT
    WJohnP saidNot at all. But then, I empathize with no one.

    "Having empathy" really means claiming to have empathy. Those who engage in it are actually only out for themselves.

    Ditto for anyone who claims to be for "social justice" (which is, incidentally, the most destructive idea ever conjured).

    It's condescension. Stop doing it.

    I agree. Anarchy is the natural state of affairs. And every man for himself. Screw justice.
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    Jul 16, 2013 6:22 AM GMT
    whitedarwin saidI can pretend to empathize with everyone it doesn't mean I have empathy for everyone. Then there are people who just want your pity


    Yes, and as I stated, those who claim to be empathetic are just fishing for compliments, and are trying to one-up one another for the Tolerance and Multicultural Awareness crown.