A call for more empathetic justice

Photo courtesy of Reference | Lady Justice is always portrayed with a blindfold, because justice is supposed to be blind to judgement. Marketing major Ese Obrimah argues that justice needs to become empathetic.

I am a feminist.

Although I am a woman who grew up in a patriarchal society, I had a relatively different experience. For example, when we were getting ready for college, my grandfather would sit down each of his grandchildren, male and female, and ask us what we would be studying and if a career in that field would be able to financially sustain our families. In other words, I grew up in a household where an 80-year-old Nigerian man asked his granddaughters if they felt the choices we were making would give us the ability to do what our society had not designated as our role.

I am an advocate for racial justice.

I grew up in Nigeria. Everybody is Black in Nigeria, so we technically don’t have racism.

I am a cisgender heterosexual woman.

I believe that members of the LGBTQIA+ community should be respected and afforded the same rights and liberties as everyone else.

I believe that girls should not be denied access to education on account of their gender.

I have always had access to education. In fact, when my college counselor asked my father if he wanted me to take a gap year before I went to college because I would be 16 when I started, he responded, “What is she going to do at home for a year?”

I believe Muslim women who cover their hair shouldn’t live in fear of being attacked.

I am not Muslim. I did, however, wear a hijab for about five hours. It was for “Hijab for a Day,” a program put on by Xavier’s Muslim Students Association to allow female students at Xavier to experience what it’s like to wear a hijab and, thus, experience the ostracization that many Muslim women feel.

But why do we need to personally experience injustice before we are convinced that it exists and that it’s wrong? Why do we need to have men experience catcalling before they believe the women who have told them that it is uncomfortable and embarrassing? Why do we need virtual solitary confinement simulations in order to believe people who’ve actually been in solitary confinement and say that it is inhumane?

We, as emotional beings, are capable of something called empathy, which is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. We exercise this tool often and use it to connect with people. However, I’ve noticed that empathy becomes a non-entity when we want to talk about injustice. Somehow, people are able to empathize with their best friend who just got dumped by their longtime partner despite they themselves never having been in a relationship. But those same people won’t feel empathy for a survivor of sexual assault who is sharing their experience.

Our society has politicized injustice so much that we’ve decided not to care about the people who experience it.

We need to free ourselves from this mentality of not caring about an issue if it doesn’t affect us. If we lived in a world where people absolutely had to experience injustice in order to acknowledge its reality, we would live in a world full of perpetually devastated people.

We need to learn to take the empathy we have for our heartbroken friends and replicate it toward people who have experienced injustice. We also need to make an effort to learn about injustice and how it affects people. On this campus, you could do that by attending Courageous Conversations in the Center for Diversity and Inclusion (CDI) or almost any other event that the CDI puts on. You could join a club that discusses injustice. You could simply walk into the Dorothy Day Center for Faith and Justice (CFJ) and talk to somebody. In the words of Rev. Abby King-Kaiser of the CFJ, “It’s all that easy, and it’s all that hard.”
Recognizing that not having experienced sexism, racism, homophobia, Islamophobia or any other form of injustice doesn’t discount your ability to take part in a movement that helps move us a little closer to achieving a just world.

Ese Obrimah is a senior marketing major and a staff writer for the Newswire from Logos, Nigeria.