As I watched the memorial services honoring George Floyd in Minneapolis and Houston, I was riveted by the expressions of grief, love and hope shared by his family. They spoke of a son and brother who, although flawed, was loved and would be sorely missed. As a father, I was deeply moved by the Floyd family’s loss. In a moment when politicians, pundits and protestors were attempting to seize my attention, a grieving family captured my heart. It has become clear to me that, for any of us to be part of meaningful change, we need to internalize a spirit of genuine empathy.
As Paul stated in his letter to the Romans, love in action requires us to “mourn with those who mourn.”
In the current social and political climate, an inability to empathize is keeping people from taking meaningful part in necessary conversations about how we treat each other. Too often, advocates for a particular position or party work to essentially dehumanize an issue by overemphasizing statistics, reducing human lives to numbers or faceless demographics. We cannot move forward if we lose touch with people’s essential human value.
I’ll admit I’m not always the most empathetic person – layers of scar tissue from two decades of service in the Texas House of Representatives can be tough to penetrate – but the Floyd family got through. In the face of their heartrending story and the insights offered by other black Americans, I have challenged myself to be more empathetic and I call on all my fellow Texans to do the same.
I had that in mind the other day when I met with members of the House Criminal Justice Reform Caucus, diverse in both party and color, to contemplate changes in the way our state handles policing, sentencing and imprisonment. The goal is not to diminish public safety, but improve it by increasing the effectiveness of law enforcement and building engagement on the part of the policed. This conversation is going to take a long time, but we owe it to ourselves and future generations to move the ball in a positive direction.
If we want to pursue meaningful dialogue and bring about lasting change, it’s time to mourn with those who mourn and, thus connected, move humanity forward with meaningful changes that foster peace. Anything else is just angry noise.