Vol. 11 No. 1 (2020): MEDIA EDUCATION – Studi, ricerche e buone pratiche
Best practices

Teaching about power and empathy in multicultural societies

Elizaveta Friesem
Columbia College Chicago

Published 2020-06-26


  • empathy,
  • cultural appropriation,
  • media,
  • nonviolence,
  • power


This essay describes the sequence of three activities (from one U.S. university course) that aimed to (1) increase students’ awareness about social injustices, (2) help them develop their empathy to see the complexity of these injustices, and (3) consider ways to change the social system through civic dialogue. The first activity was designed to explore the dynamics of cultural appropriation using principles of media literacy education and the concept of power. The second activity complicated the picture by encouraging students to reflect on the importance of empathy. Students discussed how empathy can substitute blame in conversations about cultural appropriation. The third activity connected empathy to practices of nonviolent communication (developed by Marshall Rosenberg) and Kingian nonviolence. As a result, students were able to discuss how these principles can be applied to cultural appropriation, especially when media technologies are involved.