Jooyoung Lee: On Gun Violence and Teaching Empathy

By | August 13, 2019

We’re going to Open Mat MMA in Toronto. It’s a mixed martial arts academy where I
train almost every day. So being a pop-locker has helped me tremendously
in jiu jitsu. I have been training in jiu jitsu now for
about seven years. It has helped me cope with the mental stress
and fatigue that comes from writing about and thinking about trauma all the time. Young black men are the most at-risk group
for getting shot and killed in the U.S. How many of you know who Trayvon Martin is? Raise your hands. Trayvon Martin was a teenager in Florida who
went out one night to a 7-11. He bought Skittles, he bought a lemonade iced
tea, and he was wearing a hooded sweatshirt. George Zimmerman claims that he feared for
his life, and shot and killed Trayvon Martin on the spot. It’s so easy to hear about shootings in places
like Chicago, hear about shootings in places like Philadelphia, hear about shooting in
places like Jane and Finch in Toronto and to immediately assume that if people are getting
shot in those communities, it’s because they were doing something illegal. But in my work what I show is that’s often
not the case. In fact, many of the people that I follow
around and I talk to and I write about were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. For students in general, the one thing that
I hope to impart to them is a sense of empathy. I hope that they come into the class with
an open mind and they learn about these different mechanisms that reproduce inequality and suffering
for people of colour, and that they leave the course with this idea of how can I, as
an individual, in some way, shape or form, help to ameliorate some of this suffering. We all have the power to listen to people,
and to show them empathy. We all have the power to allow people to tell
their stories. Because when we let a person tell their story,
we honour them, we validate their experiences, and we give them the space to begin healing.

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