In that moment I cringed, and not just because we shared the same name. I began to see something clearly that I had struggled with before. This kind of personification – so emotionally powerful, tempting and cathartic – leads us away from a focus on the culture, structures and processes of racism that the Zimmerman case represents. 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.