Why Compassion is More Important Now Than Ever

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I woke up to my husband saying, “They’re burning down the police station in Minneapolis.” I checked my phone. It was loaded with messages from friends reaching out to ask, “What can I do?” “What can I say?” “How do I respond to a person who doesn't understand that what happened was a result of racism?”

I see people repulsed by the video. I see others angry over the rioting. I see friends angry at those who are angry over the rioting rather than being angry about a man being killed on video.

If you live in the United States, or perhaps by now anywhere in the world, you understand that I am referring to the most recent unnecessary and totally preventable death of a Black person in America, George Floyd.

I, like many, am horrified by the latest events here in the United States. I’m furious that men who committed, participated in, and were accessories to a homicide are still free, and yet a CNN camera crew was arrested on the spot.

Now more than ever, we need compassion. Compassion is not passive. Compassion is meaningful action. First and foremost, compassion needs to be with the family and friends of Mr. Floyd. What are their desires and wishes? How can we best honor the memory of their loved one?

Secondly, compassion requires us to understand the perspectives of everyone involved - the family and friends of Mr. Floyd; the witnesses; those who have been targeted in the past; those who don’t understand (or even deny) systemic racism; and yes, even the police. We are all connected. No matter what your perspective is, we’re connected by the death of George Floyd. And, like the pandemic, while we’re moving through this event together, it affects us each in different ways.

Once we understand those perspectives, compassion requires we allow each other to decide on the meaningful, right action to take. This is an individual decision. For some, it will be protesting. For others, it may be making a call. And for still others, it may simply be a commitment to learning more about the whitewashed history of our country. We are all in different places of our understanding of what happened. We all have had different experiences that have brought us to different conclusions. This in no way excuses the fact that a man was killed. Instead, it merely acknowledges the common humanity and diversity of us all.

Finally, to allow healing to settle in, we need to decide where we want to place our focus. What we focus on increases. While learning about antiracism (or anti- anything) is an important part of understanding different perspectives, once we’ve done that, we have to make a decision about what we stand for. This decision is about what we want to create. Do you stand for justice? Equity? Dignity? When we can flip the script and focus on the value we stand for rather than against, we create powerful energy for change.

 

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