Week 9

— by Jen

I really appreciated Connection Established because of the way it clearly illustrates the complexity of caring for others while needing care yourself. I also appreciated that the things in this story that felt like the most important instances of care are actually (feel free to argue with me on this…) some of the simplest: stopping to talk with someone; finding moments for personal connections; recognizing that prioritizing someone else’s needs doesn’t necessarily mean you’re deprioritizing your own (care doesn’t have to be a zero-sum activity).

Translating some of those concepts over to the introduction of Design Justice, I can see this kind of care in the design firm And Also Too, which believes that “absolutely anyone can participate meaningfully in design.” I’m interested, then, in what the mechanisms are to facilitate listening / making space for anyone to participate, when the typical methods for design work haven’t made space for everyone.

Empathy is an ideology was a really interesting read; I appreciate the way that Jade Davis articulates the weaponization of empathy. And, I agree with their statement that “empathy does not lead to radical action.” I suppose that I want to push back on that a little: empathy doesn’t necessarily lead to radical action, but it could. And, a lack of empathy also doesn’t lead to radical action…but, it could. I suppose the problem comes in assuming that empathy is enough; that empathy is care; that empathy is an end point rather than part of the process towards action and change. While reading this piece I was thinking a lot about Gloria Ladson-Billings’ writing on culturally relevant pedagogy (summarized fairly well here; also in this fairly short interview from 2022). The cultural competence and critical consciousness elements of her work rest on empathy, but I think she’s articulating that we need cultural competence (empathy) as well as critical consciousness (which I read as action, rooted in empathy). So what I’m trying to say is: I can agree that empathy isn’t enough, but I’m not convinced that empathy in itself needs to be read as quite so negative is I thought Davis does.

2 thoughts on “Week 9

  1. Adrianna Rios (she/her)

    Thanks for sharing this interview, Jen. I like how you point out that critical consciousness may not be empathy, but it’s still rooted in it. It’s good evidence to support your skepticism towards Davis’ piece. I felt similarly when reading the list of words that Davis suggests for “Instead of empathy use _____”. Aren’t most of these words rooted in empathy?
    Overall, I agree with what you’ve written. One tends to think about empathy in a positive way and Davis disrupts that “traditional” perception. Still, I think there’s worth in the reading. It forces us to sit with the term “empathy” and consider everything that it entails, the good, the bad, etc.

  2. Brieanna Scolaro (They)

    Hi Jen, how are you!
    Your quote re: “the most important instances of care are actually (feel free to argue with me on this…) some of the simplest: stopping to talk with someone….” I agree with you about that acts of care can be simple – but they feel incredibly difficult. The amount of guilt that people share experiencing when saying no to others, letting others down, potentially upsetting others, being perceived as not working hard enough, these are the thought spaces and turmoils around actually implementing these small acts of self care. I will label these boundary setting. However, when you allow the guilt to be there, the fear, the emotions of saying no, and allowing others a right to their reaction without taking it personally, this is liberating. This is a lesson for all of us, even outside of the pandemic. However, the pandemic intensified everything. Thank you for bringing this up in your post.

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