Glenn Beck just published an Op-Ed in the New York Times arguing in favor of empathy for Black Lives Matter.
It is important to note that empathy is not a race-neutral concept. Our thoughts and emotions are grounded in the idea that whiteness is superior and normal. But since racism is a system of power imbalances, our ability to “relate” to one another is severely hindered. So empathy is not about “understanding” other people – it is about restoring, recognizing, and reflecting upon whiteness. Empathy for black people, then, requires that blackness be re-framed in terms familiar/favorable to white people, or ignored altogether.
For example: Glenn Beck is only able to “empathize” with Black Lives Matter after saying the Movement is similar to predominantly white groups (i.e. Tea Party, Bernie Supporters, Trump Supporters).
Beck “empathizes” with Black Lives Matter only after declaring a few of the members he personally met were “decent, hardworking, patriotic Americans.” These are familiar/favorable terms that align the members with racism and capitalism; thus making them a non-threat to the status quo.
To be clear: empathy is essential to human understanding and is not, in itself, problematic. But I am arguing that within the frameworks of white supremacy and anti-blackness, empathy becomes a precarious and useless concept.
In attempting to empathize with Black Lives Matter, all Beck did was draw the Movement more into the orbit of whiteness.
Empathy is white supremacy by another name.