Appearing Empathetic with Personal Anecdotes of ”Poverty”
By: Kerri Scheer of Peterborough, Ontario.
Most responsible, socially-conscience white people are aware of the need for sympathy towards less fortunate groups. It is the pleasure, and the perceived duty, of white people to discuss the plights of others with sympathy. An advanced white person, however, recognizes that underlying condescension can pollute sympathy towards the oppressed and disenfranchised. This is because those engaged in a discussion of the issues may have no personal experience between them. For such advanced white people, appearing empathetic is thought to be far more effective in assuring that one is perceived as socially responsible and aware. Empathy is obtained by “walking a mile” in the shoes of the socially disadvantaged; for busy white people that have failed to come by this experience naturally, personal anecdotes from one’s past can be tailored to give the impression that a white person possesses this coveted empathy.
The best examples of these empathy-laden personal anecdotes can be observed during a white person’s recollection of their years as an undergraduate student. These anecdotes may recount occasions when the white person “seriously, LIVED on” instant noodles and no name cola for days, weeks or even months – depending upon the amount of conviction that the white person feels that the story needs to achieve the desired degree of perceived empathy. Other anecdotes may recall the times spent pulling nickels out of sofas and then making the difficult decision to either purchase cheap liquor (to ease the pain of being “seriously, SO broke”) or to do laundry (that had been neglected for, again, days, weeks or even months). When a white person is spinning empathetic tales, it is taboo for a fellow white person (especially a previous room-mate) to mention the possibility that the storyteller had ventured to his parents’ house for home-cooked meals and free laundry twice a week. It is also in poor taste to mention that Colt 45’s were purchased solely for “novelty drinking nights” spent playing “Edward Forty-Hands”. It is best to verify the white person’s tales as “profound experiences” rather than superficial elaborations, lest you risk the white person’s ability to project empathy, be offended and claim to know what’s best for poor people.