Empathy, Understanding, and Finding Common Ground

Guest Written By: Leverett Wing, President and CEO, Commonwealth Seminar

Boston Children’s Museum has always been an oasis for my family.  From the time our son, Lleyton, was four years-old, he found the Museum a safe and welcoming space. 

While seemingly disparate in their missions, the Boston Children’s Museum and the Commonwealth Seminar,” a privately funded program with the mission of “opening the doors of government to everyone, are more closely aligned in their goals and missions than one would initially surmise. Both organizations seek to open new doors and opportunities by using education as a vehicle for change -with the hope of bringing diverse views and experiences to communities in and around Massachusetts. 

By doing so, both the Museum and the Seminar hope to foster a more understanding, empathetic, and inclusive world.

With Asians of all ethnicities having being increasingly scapegoated, demonized, and physically and verbally assaulted with alarming frequency over the past two years, the work of both the Commonwealth Seminar and the Children’s Museum has taken on greater urgency.

The California-based Stop AAPI Hate website, which has tracked attacks against Asian Americans since March of 2020, has received nearly 11,000 reports nationwide since its launch through December 2021.  For over a year, however, even as hate fueled anti-Asian rhetoric became commonplace, and fear began to spread through Asian American communities, these heinous acts were largely invisible to most Americans. 

This type of scapegoating, however, is not new to the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community. From the Chinese Exclusion Act, to the Japanese Internment during WWII, to the Sikh temple shooting in Oak Creek, to the most recent shootings at a Korean hair salon in Dallas, racism and violence against Asians has been prevalent throughout U.S. history. In Boston alone, the physical scars of institutional racism which faced the community can still be seen in the vestiges of Boston’s Central Artery project and the remnants of the Combat Zone near Chinatown.  Also too often ignored and forgotten, have been the roles which AAPIs have played in social justice movements, standing in solidarity with diverse communities through the decades, fighting for social justice, and equality.

We have been grateful for the support so many friends and organizations have shown.  More than statements of support, our communities, especially our children, need to be educated about our common histories, mutual struggles, and the shared bonds.  As we learn more about our commonalities, we can build empathy, understanding and find common ground. This is a special opportunity to educate our children and families, but we cannot waste another moment.

As always, the Children’s Museum is showing its vision and leadership in this regard.  The Museum’s exhibit “You, Me, We” is exactly what all communities need right now and moving forward.  It’s emphasis on shared experiences, as well as the exploration of biases, are critical components in helping our families understand, appreciate, and resolve our differences.  

Forward-thinking, educational efforts like these are what can offer us all optimism for the future and hope for the generations to come.

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