Walk A Mile In His Moccasins

A TED talk on empathy – 12 minutes

The title is supposedly an old Native American saying. Research points to it as the title of an 1895 poem by Mary Lathrap. Whatever the source, the sentiment expressed in that saying is a very basic lesson in humanity. That lesson is that no one should judge another person until they have had a chance to understand the background of the person being judged.

In this country the prejudging of a person based on skin color goes back to the very founding of this country. As our ancestors came here from across the ocean, early on slavery was established. In order to justify the slavery our ancestors created myths about those they enslaved. Making slaves seem less than human has always been a major ingredient of slavery.

Besides dehumanizing slaves, our ancestors also dehumanized the Natives who were already here to justify the taking of their lands. 

Unfortunately the lies and myths used to dehumanize whole groups of humans have been passed down from generation to generation. As Donald Trump has proven, such lies and myths have a great deal of currency in today’s America.

In a post at medium.com Aaron Mays Ragas relates his story “Sometimes My Black Life Matters”of what it is like to have black skin in a white society:

My black life mattered the day I was helping my sister-in-law move her furniture from her apartment to a moving van when several police officers aimed their guns at me until I sufficiently explained my purpose. Carrying a microwave to a moving van provided no clue.

My black life mattered the day I was looking through storefront windows and police detained me and questioned me until I sufficiently explained my purpose. It mattered further when I reached into my pocket for my wallet and they pulled their guns on me. My black life almost became matter on the pavement.


Or maybe just maybe my skin is the sin and no accomplishment vaccine can inoculate me.

Sometimes I wish I could try on white skin. Not to keep; just to test drive for a few days. But moreso, I wish my white friends who condemn the black lives matter mantra could wear my skin. They’d probably cut the test drive short. They’d know what it feels like to be routinely viewed as a suspect instead of a person. They’d learn that black lives do indeed matter.

A little something to consider as we go through our day. 

Walk a mile in his moccasins and you will have a much different view on things.

About Dave Bradley

retired in West Liberty
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