Tuesday, July 2, 2013


In my teaching career, one of the most powerful lessons for my students emerged from Atticus Finch, Scout's beloved father in the novel To Kill A Mockingbird. A lawyer with a deep sense of fairness and compassion, Finch taught his children a lesson that all of us should carry in life:

“If you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view—until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

Empathy, the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another, or, more simply put, putting yourself in another's place, I have always felt, should make it easier for us to react to injustices with at least some degree of outrage.

For me, the most effective route to empathy is a simple question: Would I want my son or daughter to be treated in an unjust way (apply your own particular scenario here)? Ask yourself that question as you watch this video:


  1. Police brutality and racial profiling are a natural extension of the "creepy-ass cracker" mentality of far too many (one is too many) people. They're blinded by their ignorance, hatred, bigotry and bullyism. Some turn around eventually but most never see the light.

    1. Despite the fact that progress has been made in race relations, Linda, I don't have to look very far from my own backyard, (Toronto, about 70 kilometres away) to know that much more needs to be done. Racial profiling and carding continue to be big problems amongst our police forces.

  2. Without getting into details, Lorne, I left Montreal to get a master's degree at the University of North Carolina. One of the first lessons I learned there occurred on a Saturday morning.

    I was at my desk in my dorm room, when one of the custodians came into to clean the room. I was surprised that he was there on a Saturday. But I was more surprised that a man who was old enough to be my grandfather called me Mr. Gray.
    But, most disturbing of all, he couldn't look me in the eye. He'd been taught to not be an "uppity nigger."

    That's what segregation was all about. Lee's novel is so good because, through the eyes of a child, it made segregation understandable.

    1. Although I have never spent much time in the United States, Owen, I suspect your experience was a widespread one. Unfortunately, despite the fact that Canada tends to feel a tad smug and superior to the Americans when it comes to race relations, we have no basis for that sentiment, given our ongoing abysmal treatment of aboriginals here at home.