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The ability to feel empathy is shaped by our genes, and empathy is pretty fucking important.

by Sherronda J. Brown and Lara Witt Whiteness is nothing but power. It was given and attributed to some and then many, for the sake of creating an all-consuming, capitalist, cisheteropatriarchal white supremacy. Systemic power, passed down from generation to generation and woven into the fabric of our world, built in through legislation, behaviors and biases, wealth and economic opportunities, geographical location, and culture, all become the lifeblood of parasitic whiteness. Hierarchical social structures like white supremacy, patriarchy, and capitalism, depend entirely on the maintenance of that power. White people, through a series of tools, including the idea that whiteness is all at once the neutral embodiment of human existence and not a privilege in the least, continue to benefit from hundreds of years worth of colonization while Black, Indigenous and people of color continue to hold less power than they do and therefore lack access to opportunities and foundational aspects of human existence — including physical autonomy. Colonialism was rooted in denying humanity to millions, it justified centuries of violence. And white supremacy as we know it today was planned and maintained by people at all levels of society, it creates racial disparities in homelessness, racial health disparities and the racial wealth gap. Whiteness and white people like to frequently remind us of their power without ever discussing it openly or with intent to dismantle white supremacy. No, if anything, whiteness is the one thing—no matter how poor, no matter how angry, no matter how sick they are—white people still have their skin. While there are subtle exertions of white supremacist power—especially popular amongst liberals and within democratic party leadership—there are also very obvious examples of the ways in which whiteness has made white people less empathetic resulting in the systematic harm of Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC). If white people do not view BIPOC as human through a series of dehumanizing tactics and tools, then has their power given them a sadistic pleasure in seeing our bodies harmed? It would be fair to argue that they do.
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Religion is not infallible, and it continually creates space for its leaders to abuse the power that religious interpretations unquestioningly afford them.

[TW/CW: This essay contains discussion of sexual violence, including molestation.] My mom once scolded me for swatting the pastor’s wife’s hand away from my head. She had been intrigued by my intricate braids and lifted her hand to touch them. As she began running her fingers along the length of my hair, I cringed. I don't like to be touched, and this has been true about me for as long as I can remember. I especially don't like to be touched without warning, without my consent, and this is reasonable. My body has an involuntary response to it, like a jolt shooting through me. My cheeks get hot and the skin on my neck begins to crawl. I did not want to be touched by the pastor's wife in that moment, so I used my body to push hers away. I didn't understand the look that came over my mom's face; or rather, I understood what it was, but not why it was there. She was horrified and I was confused. “Don't do that,” she whispered to me through tight lips after when we were no longer in earshot. “It's rude.” I couldn’t have been more than twelve or thirteen. A few years before that, one of my uncles made me stand in front of him in his house and repeat the words, “Jesus is my boyfriend.” This was his way of telling me that I was not allowed to have a boyfriend and he tried to use the name of Jesus and the weight that it carried to scare me into staying “pure.” God and Jesus were the only male figures I was allowed to be intimate with. Believe me, I know how fucking weird this sounds. Even hearing it as a child, I was put off by it. This was a conversation that he had initiated and engaged me in, even though I had expressed absolutely no desire to have a boyfriend, or girlfriend for that matter. When I graduated college, I moved back in with my mom for a while. At this point, I had already left the church and denounced religion, but I didn't have the confidence to tell her. And so, I went to church with her. One Sunday afternoon, she came to me speaking in a hushed tone. The pastor’s wife had told her that they had planned to give me a graduation gift in front of the congregation that day, but they simply could not bring themselves to honor me and my accomplishments because they disapproved of the shirt I was wearing, i.e. my breasts made them uncomfortable.
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