What does it mean to “care”?

China’s Genocide of the Uyghur People Puts that Question to the Test

“Nobody cares.” A sentence beginning with those words usually continues with the word “but.” “No one cares, but I do” or “No one cares, but I’m going to do something about it.” Whenever a person uses an all-inclusive word such as “nobody,” someone, somewhere notes an exception.

In the case of Chamath Palihapitiya, Silicon Valley billionaire and investor in the NBA’s Golden State Warriors, there was more than an exception to his use of the word “nobody.” There was and continues to be a thunderous response.

Recently, on the popular All-In Podcast, Mr. Palihapitiya said, “Nobody cares about what’s happening to the Uyghurs.”

When someone says he does not “care” about people, what does that mean? Mr. Palihapitiya explained what it means to him on the podcast, “of all the things that I care about, it is below my line.” It seems obvious that his line is “the bottom line.”

Is Mr. Palihapitiya, right? Does anybody care?

Contrary to Mr. Palihapitiya, his fellow podcasters cared. The discussion had to do with human rights abuses against the Muslim minority Uyghur peoples in China. Mr. Palihapitiya repeated his statement numerous times – to the utter shock of the podcast co-hosts.

Contrary to Mr. Palihapitiya, The U.S. State Department cares. A “2020 Human Rights Report” includes this overview of the Uyghur situation in China:

Significant human rights issues included: arbitrary or unlawful killings by the government; forced disappearances by the government; torture by the government; harsh and life-threatening prison and detention conditions; arbitrary detention by the government, including the mass detention of more than one million Uyghurs and other members of predominantly Muslim minority groups in extrajudicial internment camps and an additional two million subjected to daytime-only “re-education” training.

Contrary to Mr. Palihapitiya, the U.S. Secretary of State cares. As reported by Forbes, Anthony Blinken, confirmed Chinese “acts of genocide” against the Uyghurs. Further, a report by Newlines Institute for Strategy and Policy sought the counsel of over fifty human rights experts. Using both Chinese government documents and eyewitness testimonies, an analysis was developed. Co-author of the declaration, Azeem Ibrahim, said there was "overwhelming" evidence to support its allegation of China’s genocide against the Uyghurs. Many of the institute’s conclusions were reported by CNN in 2021.

China's policies and practices targeting Uyghurs in the region must be viewed in their totality, which amounts to an intent to destroy the Uyghurs as a group, in whole or in part. The report details allegations of sexual assaults, psychological torture, attempted cultural brainwashing, and an unknown number of deaths within the camps.

Despite all this available information, Mr. Palihapitiya still does not care. In a statement that sounds very much like a political “if I have offended anyone” retreat, Mr. Palihapitiya tried to “walk back” his podcast comments by saying on Twitter:

I recognize that I come across as lacking empathy. I acknowledge that entirely. As a refugee, my family fled a country with its own set of human rights issues so this is something that is very much a part of my lived experience. To be clear, my belief is that human rights matter, whether in China, the United States or elsewhere. Full stop.

Contrary to caring at all, Mr. Palihapitiya does not even mention the Uyghur people. Instead, he deflects blame away from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Could it be that he cares more for his relationship between China and the NBA as an investor in the Golden State Warriors? His comparing his personal history to the Uyghur people comes across as thoroughly impersonal and uncompassionate, as he is now safely living in the United States.

Responding to the silence coming from the NBA about CCP abuses, MSNBC’s Dave Zirin says,

Palihapitiya saying the quiet part out loud reveals the kind of callousness that NBA franchise owners must carry in their hearts to exercise silence in the face of such injustice.

Why should we care? For one thing, the February 2022 Winter Olympics are taking place in China, where the Uyghur people are even now still being oppressed. Coverage of the games should include care for the Uyghurs.

The word “care” is full of significance. “Caring” shows thoughtfulness and compassion for the needs of others. Imagine NBC running a news crawl at the bottom of the screen during each Olympic event: “China’s oppression of the Uyghur people continues.”

It won’t happen. But it should. Because compassion should stand against oppression. We should care.

has taught junior high school through PhD students over four decades, in both Christian and public education contexts. He has a Master of Theology in Old Testament, PhD in Social Science research, and just finished another Master’s in English. He is a book review editor for Christian Education Journal. Mark has written or contributed to nine curricula and books. He has also authored scores of peer-reviewed journal articles and encyclopedia essays, and maintains online writings at www.markeckel.com.

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