Kristof on the Empathy Gap and Discrimination

Oct 24, 2017

In an event organized by the University of Virginia and the Miller Center, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, himself the son of a World War II refugee, reflected on the reasons of the white supremacist violence in August and in the nation. WMRA’s Marguerite Gallorini has more.

Nicholas Kristof talked to a mostly white crowd at UVa about issues linked to the current political climate. One of his central ideas was a lack of empathy leading to a lack of actions taken against discrimination or poverty.

NICHOLAS KRISTOF:  I guess I’ve come to think over time that it’s less about a lack or resources as such and that in some ways it’s about what might be called the ‘empathy gap.’  I think it goes back in part to our tendency to "otherize" people on the basis of race or religion or whatever it may be.

The New York Times journalist then addressed the issue of systemic racism itself, beyond all the current focus on white supremacists.

KRISTOF: To me it seems that the big problem we have in 2017, in terms of discrimination, is of well-meaning people who consciously believe in equality, and yet, because of unconscious bias, act in ways that perpetuate that inequality. Frankly, one of the basic problems with discussions about race is that they're awkward, and so we don't tend to have them. African Americans talk a lot about race; whites don't talk very much about it. It may be that people like Richard Spencer force whites to have some difficult conversations about race and racism and racial bias in ways that are kind of helpful.