Leslie Burke1 Comment

Apathy, Sympathy or Empathy?

Leslie Burke1 Comment
Apathy, Sympathy or Empathy?

As we have come so far (yet not far enough) in the quest for equality for all, many women and African-Americans forget how the other has helped in their quest for freedom. Often when I discuss issues of race or sexism with white men or women, I am met with a blank stare. When I arrived in Bordeaux last night, a friend hosted 10 of us for dinner and drinks in their garden. Everyone was excited to speak with a real American and wanted me to share my thoughts on Paris. Instead of regaling them with tales of excitement and passion, I told them of the stares, the racist, sexist purse inspections (as I saw men and white women pass freely with bags) and the general sense of xenophobia that seemed to overcome parts of the city. I thought they might be shocked, share disappointment or at least indicate some sympathy. Nope! After listening for a while the conversation shifted to how Bordeaux is becoming a bit too cold like Paris due to Parisians heading south for cheap houses and a slower way of life.

Today I spent the day with a good friend of my loves who generously offered to show me her Bordeaux as she is actually from the city. Over coffee and lunch we bonded over fertility issues, feeling "abnormal" and finding small ways to reclaim confidence. As she does not have the body of a Crazy Horse dancer but loves luxury fashion, she shared how left out she feels shopping in French fashion stores where sizes often stop at a US 8 or US 10. She is forced to order most of her clothes online from UK companies similarly as I will have to order my darker makeup colors from online when I leave America. As her size is something she has struggled with for her life, she sympathized with my feelings of standing out in a world that may hate you because of your color. 

When I talk with my love about my feelings of rejection and isolation in situations of places because of my race, he admitted that this is not something he ever considered before falling in love with me. Through loving me and feeling my pain, he is empathetic, supportive and downright defensive if he thinks I am being mistreated. If that means carrying my girlie purse in Paris to avoid inspection, he did it. If that means verbally warning men who sexualize black women with cat calls while holding white women on a pedestal, he chastises them. If that means reminding me every second that I am perfect, especially when I take out braids revealing my giant afro or wear my bonnet for bed every night, he does it. I have his empathy because I have his heart. Love is the only way to get to true equality in this world. 

P.S. Photo taken with Snapchat because love is like always viewing people through your favorite filter even when they wear a bonnet. Bonnet from BonnieLove.