Her voice is a revelation and her concert last week in Atlanta was nothing short of a religious experience

Loving Ourselves: The Case for Radical Empathy

It’s been a rough past few weeks, hasn’t it? Between the SCOTUS rulings, Zimmerman trial, another recent discovery of a serial killer who has targeted Black women, and the general tomfoolery of white supremacy experienced on a daily basis, it seems like we can’t catch a break. Certainly, it’s never easy to be a person of color, but it has felt, at least to me, particularly egregious recently.  We have a lot of work to do to get free and stay free, but in the meantime I’m really concerned about how we love (on) ourselves and each other—because the business of liberation is not for the faint of heart.

Y’all know that Beloved is a sacred text to me. I can always open it and find something that will move my spirit. And I’ve been thinking a lot about how Morrison imagines Blacks in the 19th century navigating a hostile world that not unlike our own, a world where “whitepeople believed that whatever the manners, under every dark skin was a jungle. Swift unnaviagable waters, swinging screaming baboons, sleeping snakes, red gums ready for their sweet white blood.” But, as the novel suggests, the time we spend convincing racist whites about our own humanity is not only an exercise in missing the point, it is a clear path for participation in our own dehumanization.

I want to make a call for radical empathy within communities of color. Yes, coalition building and allyship are important, Lorde knows. But how we see, trust, and love ourselves should be at the core of our understanding in these times, as we are continually under surveillance, battered, and hunted down in the streets as if our lives were worth less than nothing.

This is a time for fighting, agitation, mobilization, and organizing for systemic change—yes. Absolutely. But this is also a time for reflection, reading, soft beds, self-care, and saying “no!” to time wasters and soul crushers. This is also a time for laughing, lovemaking, singing, crying, wailing, dancing, and holding on to each other tight. This is a time for potlucks, cookouts, BBQs, picnics, cocktails, karaoke, concerts, house parties, blue lights in the basement, slow jams, and dutty wines. You feel me?

How am I practicing what I preach? Spending time with the people I love. Eating copious amounts of roast pork, fresh corn on the cob, and Italian ice.  Listening to great music, like my girl Alice Smith.


Her voice is a revelation and her concert last week in Atlanta was nothing short of a religious experience
Her voice is a revelation and her concert last week in Atlanta was nothing short of a religious experience

I’m also daydreaming about cuties. Watching bad movies with my mama. Reading novels about zombies. Organizing ways in which I can foster support self-care and healing in the communities I live and love in. But mostly, I’m loving myself and those I hold dear fiercely and unapologetically.

What are you doing to cultivate radical empathy in your own lives, fam?

(H/T to Son of Baldwin for inspiring the use of the Morrison quote)


7 thoughts on “Loving Ourselves: The Case for Radical Empathy

  1. Loving myself means taking a break to go to art shows in different cities and letting my imagination wander. I socialize when I want to or can but mostly I like being solo, seeing whatever I want to see for as long as I want to see it. In New York City I find myself taking bus rides and walking instead of taking the subway. City folk stand or sit next to me, bodies turned toward me to chat as if I am a friend. When it’s over we part as strangers but I always feel welcomed. Never alone.

  2. Saying no to work while I was on vacation (even though it was piling up) and reveling in my time with my friends. Now that I am without them … I will also be indulging with some peach pie and other good food …

  3. well said. i feel as you do. i am spending the week in Chicago with my mother and grandmother. we are just sitting with one another talking, being quiet, and practicing lots of patience.

  4. i love this! i’m busy being proud of my growth and relinquishing emotional dishonesty. at 31, i recognize the need to unlearn many scripts about life, relationships and identity that i’ve adhered to since childhood. what’s helping me along this journey? lots of kale salad with homemade dressing, short trips up and down the east coast, collecting vintage jumpsuits, posing for the occasional photo shoot and staying out late on week nights.

    for my thoughts on life and everyday shenanigans visit: http://www.politicsandfashionblog.com

  5. I actually read the title backwards. “A case for radical empathy” then my eyes panned left: “Loving ourselves”.

    Not even lying or posturing or anything, I suddenly lol’ed

    That’s what counts for “empathy” in this cloister, naked narcissism. Radical, no less. Never for one second visualizing yourself looking up at the football player on top of you beating you over and over and over and over and over while you scream, instinctually panicking, knowing that 200 people a year get killed by unarmed assault. Take your brain damage like you deserve for the crime of looking at someone wrong, it’s your sole place to suffer and die for future of the morally inherent other, whether he’s torturing you or not.

    Man, I have to show people this.

Comments are closed.