The empathy-discrimination connection
2013 July 1
Would you think that the Adivasi (tribal person) who is used to a lot of hardships in his life would require less pain medication than you, the person from the sophisticated society? Please think, and find an answer before you read the rest.
If you think yes, do you think your answer would influence your decision in giving pain medication to the two people?
The article “I dont feel your pain” in http://www.slate.com/
articles/health_and_science/ science/2013/06/racial_ empathy_gap_people_don_t_ perceive_pain_in_other_races. single.html
argues that there is a connection between empathy and racial discrimination. Though the article seems to be about black and white races, it could well be applicable to our everyday practice in India, though we may be neither quite black nor quite white.
It certainly merits reflection. Our upbringing and our bias may influence our decisions and our behavior when we treat someone from another stratus of society with which we are not familiar. We may, with respect, say of the illiterate tribal person, “They are so hardy”, not quite recognizing that we have inadvertently referred to him or her as “they” thus branding the individual with our bias. And the result: the person gets less pain medicine. Or we may see the worried face of the member of the Royal family and say to ourselves, “They are such crybabies”.
Once that happens, we may still be compassionate, but empathy would have faded away.