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And that’s also the problem with empathy. While it’s important to honor the humanity of those whose actions cause great harm, “developing more empathy” is never enough to confront injustice and discrimination. It’s not how much empathy we feel in general terms that really makes the difference, but what we do with the empathy we feel and how we do it in concrete situations.
At the Movement Strategy Center in Oakland, California, we work with groups who wrestle with these issues every day. They have their feet to the fire of injustice, but they eschew simplistic solutions that demonize other people. Instead, they try to confront conflicts from a place of “radical connection:” a mix of unbending honesty about injustice and its causes, balanced by the openness and humility required to understand the motivations of other people and find ways through the forest of competing interests.
By Kristen Zimmerman