In 1895, a Michigan poet, preacher, suffragist, and temperance reformer named Mary T. Lathrap wrote a poem called "Judge Softly." In part, the poem reads:
"...Just walk a mile in his moccasins
Before you abuse, criticize and accuse.
If just for one hour, you could find a way
To see through his eyes, instead of your own muse.
I believe you’d be surprised to see
That you’ve been blind and narrow-minded, even unkind.
There are people on reservations and in the ghettos
Who have so little hope, and too much worry on their minds.
Brother, there but for the grace of God go you and I.
Just for a moment, slip into his mind and traditions
And see the world through his spirit and eyes
Before you cast a stone or falsely judge his conditions.
Remember to walk a mile in his moccasins
And remember the lessons of humanity taught to you by your elders.
We will be known forever by the tracks we leave
In other people’s lives, our kindnesses and generosity.
Take the time to walk a mile in his moccasins.”
We are experiencing a moment when the eyes of the dominant factions are opening their collective eyes to what it's like to walk in the shoes of the subordinate. Here's the thing: if you just do it for an hour or a mile, and you go back to whatever your life is now, you may gain a glimpse of life on the other side and it may stimulate an empathic response, but still, it means you get to evade the suffering, the difficulty and challenge that your oppressed or distressed co-citizens live with every day. They walk in those "moccasins" constantly.
For the oppressed, the subordinate, the chronically disadvantaged, there is little to no choice. Not yet. We do not live in a society where everyone has an equal shot. Not yet. Change is a long way off and it will not be easy or fast or smooth.
But I think more people have spent an hour or a mile in the shoes of the oppressed in the past two weeks than have ever done so in centuries. Stay in the uncomfortable place. It's the only way through.
"Remember the lessons of humanity taught to you by your elders ... We will be known forever by the tracks we leave in other people's live, our kindness and generosity."