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All too often when we hear of calamities, we liken them to our own experiences as a means of connecting and understanding

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The intersection where George Floyd was killed, five days later. May 25, 2020 Minneapolis police officers arrested Floyd, handcuffed him, then held him down on his stomach while Derek Chauvin put a knee on his neck as Floyd pleaded for breath. Photo: Fibonacci Blue

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We as Jews do not own discrimination. We do not own persecution. We are not unique to hatred.

I had intended to write about Ahmaud Marquez Arbery, a 25-year-old black man who was chased and shot by armed white residents of a South Georgia neighborhood, but before I had a chance to do so, another black life was cruelly taken, that of George Floyd.

All too often when we hear of calamities, we liken them to our own experiences as a means of connecting and understanding. However, the problem with doing that is it undermines the others’ experience and sends the message that their pain only exists relative to our own – as if their pain and troubles couldn’t hold space and truth without our experiences.  

The other day on my Facebook page, I shared a post detailing the murders of black people along with their names. I like to think that I’ve seen a lot, but people’s responses shook me. “White privilege is a hoax,” “Racism doesn’t exist!” “What about the Holocaust and all the people we lost then??”. These responses rendered me speechless, and as a writer as well as someone known to be opinionated, this doesn’t happen often.

Words are my thing. But what happens when words fail? What happens when words fail to affect change, or when words fail to induce the unity they are intended for? What are we left with then?

Empathy picks up where words leave off.

Social worker Brene Brown describes empathy as “simply listening, holding space, withholding judgment, emotionally connecting, and communicating that incredibly healing message of ‘You’re not alone.’”

All too often, we interpret the mission of inclusion by sharing our own stories. I am very guilty of this. For a long time, I would talk to people and when hearing what they had to say, I would respond with a similar experience of my own.

At some point, this practice began to bother me, but I didn’t have the emotional intelligence to articulate why. After endless Brene Brown podcasts, I realized this habit of mine was faulty, because it wasn’t holding space for someone else’s experience and truth.

By always injecting my own narrative into someone else’s experience, I was saying, in not so many words, that their experience exists only as a foil to my own. That, and interrupting, are such bad traits of mine, that I actively work on. Clearly, not that hard, as I just used a paragraph of this article to illustrate my point of using my own experiences inappropriately. Glass house, meet stones.

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The Jewish people have been through harrowing and tragic events in history, and even the present day. People of colour are still discriminated against today. Jewish people were killed and gassed by the millions. Black people were slaves and literally died at the hands of white people. Jews still face anti-semitism today, with shocking frequency. Racism is alive and well.

The world may fawn over Gal Gadot, but anti-semitism is far from over. A black president is a massive step forward, but not enough of a leap to eradicate racism. All of the statements above hold space and truth individually and separately. They exist on their own and not relative to one another. 

Explaining George Floyd by relating it to your grandparents’ experience in Germany undermines both experiences for Jews, and black people. This is a time to stand in solidarity with people in pain. We as a nation know pain and hurt and loss, but the strength of that is how it creates understanding and empathy without relativity. 

Listening to someone’s pain, hearing their hurt, understanding their tears – and doing it all in silence while holding their hands. This is empathy. This is where hate goes to die love goes to grow.

Daniella English is the author of the acclaimed blog The Not So Single Life. She has written for various publications such as Savvymom and the CJN, and is now a columnist with TheJ.ca. She has been featured on What She Said Talks and The AM 640 Dating and Relationship Show.

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Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

We thank you for your ongoing support.

Happy reading!

Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

We thank you for your ongoing support.

Happy reading!

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