I gauge a person’s capacity for compassion by what happens when the topic of food stamps comes up. The history of who is deserving of state support and who isn’t is steeped in patriarchy and white supremacy. The tension is deeper than who is deserving, the root of the tension is about who should live and who should die in America.
People need to eat, and should be able to eat good food.
Statistics about the number of non-Black Americans receiving food stamps are shouted from the roof tops by progressives and some radicals too. However, none of that matters. Statistics hold little power when they are shared by those with less money and institutional power.
Movement of people, stories and resources toward liberation can build the power needed to change the narrative – which in turn has the power to change the law and social attitudes.
Ronald Reagan did not create the climate for Black mothers receiving state support to feed themselves and their children to be seen as unfit and undeserving. What he was successful at was packaging the “welfare queen” archetype into something palatable to a post-civil rights and Black Power movement era. White supremacists needed a contemporary image to vilify Black mothers.
Today, politicians who continue to use narratives of Black female pathology to bait voters, money and public support lack compassion. They, and those who support such ideas, fail to see Black mothers as full human beings. These oppressive ideas, often followed by actions when those who possess them have power and/or influence, create barriers to liberation.
Some questions I have:
To what extent is compassion learned and shaped?
Is it dictated or influenced by social location?
Can those who lack compassion learn how to care and act out of care?