Assembling Empathy

I see humans, but not much humanity


Zitlali Montiel-Martinez, Features Editor

Let’s set one thing straight. Reyna Grande did not come here to change our political viewpoints, nor did she come to make any assertions. She came to share a story, one that many of us at Leyden already share. She wrote and spoke to show one of the many faces behind that story.

But as amazing and inspirational as Reyna Grande’s presentation was today, the spotlight isn’t solely on her anymore. Instead, it’s on a lack of empathy from a few students.

Towards the end of the second presentation, when the microphone was opened up to the students, some took full advantage of the opportunity to learn more about another person’s dream and journey. One, however, took the opportunity to capture the attention of the school by “humorously” posing a question about a sensitive and serious subject. Most people around me couldn’t believe it, but then there were also people laughing.

As we sat in my journalism class talking about Grande’s presentation, we slowly diverted to talking about the comments made during the assembly and the quickness with which an angry twitter exchange developed.

Every so often one of my classmates would yell out, “Look there’s another one!” or “Hey come look at this!”

And thus the message of the assembly and the serious questions it raised were overshadowed by tweets meant to capture attention.

We’re all guilty of giving these “intelligent” tweets more celebrity than they deserve.

When someone goes and disrespects Grande’s story, not only are they disrespecting Grande, but they’re disrespecting their own families. They are disrespecting people who connect to the story: parents who gave their lives trying to make their children’s lives better and people who still believe the American dream exists. They’re disrespecting a person. They are evidence that many teens lack human empathy.

Are you telling me that all people shouldn’t want a better education? To form a life better than the one they have now?

Every person behind a disrespectful tweet has a dream. Maybe you don’t want to have a family, but you want to be financially stable. Maybe you want to go to college, but you don’t want to own a home. Regardless of your dream, the point is that you have one.

And because you have a dream, you should be able to respect that immigrants have dreams too, even if you don’t agree with how they achieve them.

And you should be able to respect that–while you are on your way to making your dream a reality–our speaker today, Reyna Grande,  already achieved hers.

Whatever your political stance is, I respect that.

Whatever your belief in illegal/legal immigration is, I respect that.

I’m not writing this article to change your mind about a political issue.

I’m not writing this article to give more attention to your disrespectful tweets. They don’t deserve my respect or my attention.

I’m writing this article because one rule, the golden rule, the rule we grew up with–respect others–was not remembered today by a few students. I’m hoping that the rest of us, who showed empathy and respect to Ms. Grande this morning, can help our school learn about difficult issues.