Imagine an acquaintance approaches you, and although they have no visible wounds, you can tell they’re clearly in pain. They say, “Ouch, it hurts so bad!”
Which response is more likely to strengthen your relationship?
A) Ask what’s the matter, and attempt to relieve their pain, or;
B) Sneeringly chide that you can’t see what’s the matter, and complain that “People are too sensitive these days.”
In the aftermath of recent blackface incidents at Cal Poly, I notice many people choosing option B, which — if we’re trying to cultivate a true sense of community — is concerning.
The appropriate (and typically natural) response to pain is to attempt to understand its cause and try to bring relief.
Taking the opposite course — attempting to shame others for their pain, or pridefully proclaiming that we “just don’t understand it”— is something between neglectful and cruel, and should be cause for deep introspection.
What is “off” about our hearts that would cause us to choose derision over healing?
Likewise, it’s cruel to shame others for what they don’t know. If you’re unsure why blackface is hurtful but you’re a little embarrassed to ask, you can type “Why is blackface hurtful?” into Google. Once you have your answer, participate in a dialogue that promotes healing, rather than perpetuating pain.
Melissa Jenna Godsey, San Luis Obispo