Choose empathy

Madelyn Schorr

Empathy is the most important emotion we have. Although it didn’t get a character in Pixar’s Inside Out, empathy is a worthy emotion that we should express more. Over the past few weeks I’ve seen people get into arguments about free speech on college campuses, debate whether colleges should have “safe spaces,” and devalue the work of student organizers across campus as they fight for recognition on their campus. Instead of people listening to others’ arguments and talk through their arguments, I saw people shut down the other side and stop any dialogue or conversation from happening. They didn’t want to be challenged or questioned, they wanted to stay in their own lane and ignore the other argument being presented.

We are all guilty of this. It’s hard to be open to new ideas or new ways of seeing the world especially when you’ve only known your own values and belief system. I’m not asking for 100 percent perfection. I’m asking you to think of others’ experiences outside of your own. We all come from different places, and we all believe different things. That’s what makes college so great. Being exposed to all these new ideas, people and experiences open your mind to the world we live in and help shape and mold you as a person.

So, to the students on campus who don’t understand the value of a safe space, consider yourself lucky. Lucky you get to walk around campus feeling safe and secure. Knowing if we get into trouble we won’t be questioned or violated if we go to the authorities for help. Lucky that when we walk into buildings named after slave owners, it isn’t a reminder of our ancestors being bought, sold and abused until their last days. Instead we think of people who built the state of Alabama, but we ignore the people who actually laid the stones.

It’s not offensive to want to feel safe and secure on campus. College is a time where we get to build and grow as future leaders. Every student on campus should feel empowered to do the best they can do and be the best they can be. College is supposed to build you up and let you soar, or at least that’s what they say in the brochure. College wasn’t selling us a real world when we took a tour, it was selling us a place to go for 4 years and learn, grow and find who we really are. 

Again, I’m not asking for perfection or for you to even agree with me. Next time you see something on your timeline or hear something in the classroom you don’t agree with don’t jump the gun and denounce what they are saying. Instead, take a step back and have an empathic ear. Listen to what the other person is saying and try and see why they are saying it. Just because you don’t come from the same place or share the same interest doesn’t mean you should stop seeing them as a person. 

Madelyn Schorr is a senior majoring in art and anthropology. Her column runs biweekly.