“Black People Feel Less Pain”: On the Racial Empathy Gap, Obamacare, and the Government Shutdown

“Black people are hard. They don’t feel pain the way you do.” Teju Cole tweeted this yesterday, along with a link to an article on Slate from last June, “I Don’t Feel Your Pain,” in which the topic of empathy was explored in relation to America’s ongoing racial disparities, and the ways in which lack of empathy strengthens them. In the essay, author Jason Silverstein writes, “for many people, race does matter, even if they don’t know it. They feel more empathy when they see white skin pierced than black. This is known as the racial empathy gap.” 

Perhaps there is no easy way to solve this racial and economic empathy gap. Or perhaps there is. Perhaps we shouldn’t depend on our flawed populace to simultaneously, miraculously learn how to be empathetic. 

by Kristin Iversen