The Art of Caring
Do we truly care how someone’s day has been? Why do we ask if we know the answer will almost always be “good,” barring an extreme scenario such as losing an arm? When someone says “good,” is that person really just okay? When someone says he’s fine, am I obligated to ask whether he truly is fine? The truth is that I do not care about the answers to any of these questions.
It is impossible to make someone care. Feelings cannot be faked. We choose the emotions we show the world, but we cannot choose the emotions we feel inside. Sometimes it’s impossible to conceal these feelings. (Anyone who watched the first ten minutes of Up knows what I’m talking about.) Possibly an even more frustrating experience than feeling unwanted emotion is seeing the lack of it in others: how could someone not cry after seeing that little animated man’s wife die?
These feelings are only enhanced as the volatility of the topic increases. Someone who fails to care about racism is almost as horrific as someone who acts upon their racist thoughts.
Very few people would identify themselves as racists. If “hi, I'm a racist” is your go-to introduction, you not only are opening yourself up to the most notorious dad joke of all time but also probably have few, if any, friends. The majority of people we'd consider racist are more misguided than evil.
Without exposure to the reality that black people are not criminals or rapists, these people create their own reality based on what they believe they’ve experienced or seen in the world. You can't fault someone for ignorance.
This does not mean that the blame solely rests on the teacher, or lack thereof. Racism was not created by one person or one group of people but by a culmination of centuries of systems that have led many to think a certain way. It no longer matters who is to blame because trying to blame one singular thing or person is impossible and distracts us from our preferred result.
Racism can't be solved. It's not a puzzle. Some of the “pieces” won't fit; not everyone will understand. Racism is a problem with the world, one that personally affects millions. That's intimidating. As an individual, I can't change that. I can change individuals. If you can impact an individual, even just one, you have accomplished something incredible. You have made someone's life better, more meaningful, and that in itself is a victory.
The best you can do is listen. Listen to the oppressed. Try to understand, try to care. Even if you don't feel particularly motivated to tell others about what you heard, understand that even just by listening, by thinking, you have taken the first step. That means more than anything.