Empathy: The Salve for Prejudice
The key to understanding prejudice is to use empathy to uncover the root of the bias and the negative physical effects it causes.
Empathy is the capacity to understand and respond to the unique experiences of another. It is not an emotion or a feeling but a capacity that is innately present. Empathy is part of our genetic endowment; it is essentially our ability to read others accurately, to see beyond the surface into the soul of another human being.
Empathy is often confused with sympathy. Sympathy, as opposed to empathy, occurs when we identify with another person’s experience even when we do not actually know whether our experiences are similar. For example, you hear that a neighbor is being transferred to Texas, and you immediately respond by saying how sorry you are that her family has to move.
She responds by telling you that she is going to work for her sister’s clothing chain as a buyer, and it’s the opportunity of a lifetime; plus, she and her husband will be near family and close to her old university and college friends. You realize with embarrassment that your quick reaction was not factual but emotional, projecting how you would feel rather than slowing down and gathering the facts.
by Arthur P. Ciaramicoli