How to use personal trauma to practice empathy of others


I had just watched the first episode of the new series, Them, and texted one of my closest friends Ryan about it.

“Have you seen the new show, Them. Holy shit.”

Ryan is a Black male. I’m a white Jewish guy.

His response shouldn’t have caught me off guard, but it did.

“I can’t watch it. Too triggering.”

For those who haven’t seen the show, it’s a harrowing account of a Black family, one of millions, who migrated from the Jim Crow laws and pervasive racism of the South to…

It’s About Understanding and Trust

Black-White Conversations/Shutterstock-Fiskes

Do-gooders have come out of the woodwork since the tragic murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and others.

For most of us fighting for social and racial justice, it’s a welcome and long overdue awakening. Black and brown people have waited years for a national outcry like this. For people to take to the streets. Protest. Speak up. Vote. Never in the United States’ two and a half centuries of existence has there been this level of simultaneous compassion and outrage. It’s a great renewal of the civil rights activity of the 1960s.

The intent of these millions…

Respecting Jews and Palestinians

The 2,000+ year old Wall from the Second Jewish Temple/GigaShots-Shutterstock

In 1975, the then Soviet Union, along with its numerous Arab allies and client states, passed a resolution at the United Nations labeling the Jewish national movement known as Zionism racist. It was a low point in modern Israel’s young history, but it didn’t really take in the U.S. Most Americans knew better.

Almost fifty years after that resolution, things seem a bit different. During this latest flare-up of tensions and death and destruction between Israel and Palestine, social media in America is abuzz with quite the onslaught of anti-Semitic outbursts.

“Hitler should’ve finished off the…

The challenges of intersectionality

Black, Female and Muslim — Prostocl-Studio/Shutterstock

Ayun had just walked into synagogue to attend Rosh Hashanah services in Boston. Her co-religionists greeted her with a few smiles and Jewish New Year greetings, but it didn’t take long for the conversations to turn from welcoming to a barrage of questions about how Ayun could be Jewish. A few “where are you froms,” as if she couldn’t be American with her Asian features. A few questions about whether she was with a Jewish partner, implying she couldn’t be Jewish herself. A few “Are you with a friend?” questions. Notably, a lot of the questions came from a loving…

The Simple Solution to Ending Racial and Ethnic Strife

Protosoc AN/Shutterstock

In my racial justice work and efforts to eradicate unconscious bias against Black and Brown people in America, I developed a method I call “End Racial Distancing,” a play-off of our last year-plus of social distancing amid the global coronavirus pandemic.

I didn’t invent this simple concept. In addition to its common sense, I read a poem written by then grad student and young Jewish woman Molly Zeff, called “It’s Just Dinner,” that shined a bright light on the idea.

Here’s the earth-shattering concept Molly’s poem artfully posited: If Jews and Arabs just started with sharing a meal together —…

Time for Mutual Recognition


Across the pond here in the U.S., many see the recent unrest, violence, terror, death and destruction in Israel and Palestine as another typical round in the cycle of he-said-she-said that has plagued the two peoples for nearly a century.

For most Israelis and Jews worldwide, it’s the violence and terror Israelis face. The rain of rockets from terror groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad. It’s about the Jews’ right to live on their original indigenous land they were kicked out of so many times and could finally return to. To prevent another Holocaust from ever…

The one hatred that doesn’t get canceled

Charles Lindbergh Stamp/Shutterstock

Pepé Le Pew, the misogynist feline-groping cartoon character that Dave Chapelle once joked about when he turned on the cartoon for his nephew, “Good god, what kind of fucking rapist is this guy,” is now gone. Canceled because of its contribution to offensive ideas about disrespect and abuse of women. I vaguely recall seeing the creepy, smelly skunk as a kid, but since then I hadn’t thought much about it. So I went back and watched a few episodes online.

There he was, Pepé physically pushing himself onto the reluctant cat Penelope. The cat is frightened. She tells the skunk…

In memory of too many to list

Black man with worried look after being pulled over/Mike Focus-Shutterstock

They thought D’Arreion was an intruder in their apartment building

They thought Ahmad was a robber

They thought 12 year old Tamir’s toy was a gun

They thought Alton’s and Amadou’s wallets were guns

They thought 120 pound massage therapist Elijah wearing a ski mask made him “sketchy”

They thought bird watching Christian was threatening their lives

They thought Amadou was reaching for a gun

They thought Trayvon looked suspicious

They thought Willie’s itch on his chest was him reaching for his gun

They thought Marvin was acting strange

They thought Andre’s keychain was a revolver

They thought Terrence looked…

Racial complacency is never a good thing

President Joe Biden speaks at a climate summit. // Getty Images

If there’s going to be any societal shift after the brutal murder of George Floyd and the conviction of Derek Chauvin, it certainly should be that large segments of America will finally acknowledge the seriousness and gravity of racism.

Former President Barack Obama said it best following Floyd’s death:

In some ways, as tragic as these past few weeks have been, as difficult and scary and uncertain as they’ve been, they’ve also been an incredible opportunity for people to be awakened to some of these underlying trends.

The past year’s mass protests were some of the largest in American history…

AYA Images/Shutterstock

I recently saw a meme that said, “Only in America do you find a kid wearing $150 tennis shoes, drinking a $5 cup of coffee, typing on his $1,000 iPhone, complaining on social media about racism.”

Ahhhh, the empathy.

The meme follows numerous comments I’ve heard recently in some circles proclaiming that racism is overstated. Exaggerated. That there’s no pervasive racism against Black people in America. Sure, there’s a few whacko white supremacists and a handful of bad cops, they say, but no significant racism from regular mainstream white folk.

It’s not the Black engineers, doctors, lawyers, teachers, autoworkers, electricians…

Jeffrey Kass

Thought-Leader On Race, Society, and Culture | Award-Winning Author | Speaker | Trainer | Lawyer | Latest Book: The Rona Diaries. One World. Two Pandemics.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store