Why everyone is talking about this Humans of New York grad pic

This week, Humans of New York — the photoblog run by Brandon Stanton that captures the everyday lives of New Yorkers in the most raw, tremendous way— posted a photo of young woman who had just graduated college. Paired with the image was the simple but powerful caption, “I’m an illegal immigrant.” The inspiring image has over 387,000 likes and over 10,000 shares already. Amazing.

Since it was posted, the photo has sparked major conversation, since, well, the topic of immigration is a heated one. Especially in the States, opinions run the gamut from supportive and progressive, to cautious, to undecided, to downright mean and ill-informed. Just this year, a Florida teen was shocked to find incredibly offensive photos in her yearbook depicting Caucasian students in sombreros and ponchos holding up green cards. The pictures were not OK, but luckily the issue was brought to light via the Internet — people took the student’s side, illuminating how we DON’T talk about immigration, race, and ethnicity. Human’s of New York illuminated how we do.

Like the yearbook photo, this Humans of New York image also brings up the issue of how many people treat immigrants in the U.S. The stereotypes associated with illegal immigrants, especially, are negative and damaging and wrong. The picture of a young woman who earned her college diploma combats the erroneous idea that non-citizens are taking advantage of the country’s resources, and the response to it has been, for the most part, super positive.

Although the photo did attract a number of discouraging comments, the positive still outweighs the negative —and this shows serious progress. It also shows that people can be a non-citizens AND students —that these two identities are not mutually exclusive. And that to discredit this young woman for her achievements would be incredibly unfair.

We hope this photo not only educates others about the immigration process, but that it encourages humans to support one another for their triumphs and successes, period.

Images via Humans of New York Facebook