Empathy-the ability to step into the shoes of another person, aiming to understand their feelings and perspectives, and to use that understanding to guide our actions. Jones, Betty (2018, September 18) The Mind Journal
Just 3 days prior to Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, Pulitzer Prize nominated journalist Desiree Cooper was a guest speaker at Oakland Community College event to honor Dr. King. On Friday, January 18, 2019, the Smith Theatre was about 80 percent filled with people from all different backgrounds. A small selection of 6 current OCC students (Oakland Community College) recited reflection poems and speeches in reference to Dr. King and how they are impacted today by him. Adedoyin Adebayo, who is 18-year-old, biology major, in closing of her poem stated, “Passiveness is what poisons the right to be free.”
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” (Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.) There are many interpretations of Dr. King’s meaning behind those words, believing that he was speaking for all children. Desiree interprets that Dr. King was not referring to all children but was referring to his own children. In that moment he was speaking as a parent.
Cooper wrote the novel Know the Mother, which is series of short stories. She read from her book The Disappearing Girl. The Disappearing Girl is a short story about a 10-year-old African American girl who attended a private predominately white school. The story opens with the mother picking up her daughter up from school. The mother proceeds to ask what the young girl did at school. However, she is answered with a single response, nothing. As the car ride continues the mother thinks about the change of emotions in her daughter. Did you know that I am invisible? Said the young girl. The mother immediately thinks back to her own experience when she felt invisible in her school by one of her teachers. After little to no thought the mother knew that was her daughter’s last day attending that school. The mother replies, “I can see you.” Cooper then asked the audience; do you think the mother over reacted?
“How did we become a nation so fully lacking in empathy?” (Desiree Cooper) Once the floor was open for discussion the room filled up with raised hands from every angle of the room. So many shared similar experiences like that in The Disappearing Girl story. One of the student coordinators, Sana Ishaqsei shared that she attended a predominately mixed high school. She was close friends with 3 girls from her school until one day she wore her hijab. She had never worn her hijab to school before and was told if she did not take it off then she would be friendless. Ishaqsei did not remove her head scarf because for her it was a symbol of pride for her. Jana Walker who is a 16-year-old duel enroll student at OCC, stated that she attended the event for class credit. She learned from the event, “People are a lot more open minded than you tend to think--I think you have to be open with yourself for others to be open with you.”
Six years before Dr. King’s infamous I have a dream speech, King once stated that life’s most persistent and urgent question is, “What are you doing to help others?” Cooper believes that reaching out to help others requires a limitless amount of empathy and selflessness which is absent today in society.” She is a firm believer that reading fiction novels allows the brain to in turn see the life of others. According to Cooper, Neuroscientist have found that the brain will light up in certain areas from what the reader is taking in and the brain will mentally have an experience without really having it. “Fiction is a power tool of empathy”. (Desiree Cooper) Cooper made it clear that Dr. King’s dream is slowing fading due to lack of empathy from all shades and genders.
Adedoyin Adebayo,18-year-old biology major student at OCC, poetess.