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Cedarbrook Middle School Students Educate Peers on Hate Speech and Rhetoric

student forum on hate speech(March 25, 2022)  Cedarbrook Middle School students educated their peers on hate speech and rhetoric in an hour-long, student-run forum on Thursday March 24. The forum addressed a plethora of topics, including racism, hate against the AAPI community, anti-semitism, hate for identifying within the LGBTQIA+ community, sexism, misogyny, feminism, ableism, and emotional labor. 

The forum utilized a presentation with links to a Google form where participants could answer questions about their experience with the topics presented, such as personal experiences with the use of slurs and discrimination from peers in their school. You can view the presentation here

After they covered many topics in the presentation, the students gathered in the learning commons after school for a long-form discussion. 

The presentation began with a video on empathy, then moved into the first of the topics: racism. Students focused primarily on the use of the n-word, its history and use today. Students were then prompted to use the Google form, which posed the question: “When you hear the N-word at school, what context is it in?” to which 41 percent responded “as a joke,” 22 percent responded “to offend someone,” 18 percent responded “as a greeting,” and 15 percent responded “to address someone.” 

Next, the students covered hate in the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) community. They began by covering the history of hate towards the AAPI community, then focused on its impact today, which has been exacerbated due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The presenters concluded this portion of the presentation with examples of how to help stop the spread of hate in AAPI communities, such as reporting incidents by speaking out, learning about the history of AAPI hate, keeping up with current events, spreading credible resources, and supporting the community. 

The presenters then transitioned to the topic of antisemitism by discussing its history and impact today. They showed a video of a Jewish woman discussing what it’s like identifying as a Jewish person outside of religious beliefs, identifying closely with the traumatic events her ancestors had to endure.

Throughout the forum, the students had check-ins where the presenters would answer commonly asked questions about the topics covered, which allowed students to receive a recap of the information covered so far, while allowing for clarification on common misconceptions.

Next, the students tackled hate in the LGBTQIA+ community. Starting with the history and use of the f-slur. Then they transitioned into discussing discrimination toward the LGBTQIA+ community, specifically from religious communities. This portion of the presentation closed with respecting transgender and non-binary identities. The students discussed how to ask someone their pronouns, the process of correcting yourself when you mess up someone’s pronouns, and common misconceptions about transgender and non-binary identities.

The students then discussed sexism and misogyny, specifically how forced gender norms/ roles can be harmful to young people. They showed a video about doing things “like a girl” and how the negative connotation of “doing things like a girl” makes women feel inferior. 

“Why can’t running like a girl mean you win the race?” posited one of the women in the video. After the video, there was a clear shift in the audience, as the students burst into applause. 

Naturally, the presenters began discussing feminism next, starting with its definition and history. The students were then prompted to respond to the Google form again, this time answering “Has someone ever treated you differently because of your gender?” to which 80 percent of participants said “yes.” 

The presenters then discussed ableism, specifically how to interact with people who have disabilities, the use of the r-slur, and the difference between physical disabilities and mental disabilities. 

“Just because you can’t see someone’s disability, doesn’t mean they don’t have one,” one of the presenters said. The presentation then became more interactive by utilizing the reward of snacks as incentive for answering true/false questions about ableism. 
 
Finally, the presentation concluded with the topic of emotional labor and apologies. Where the presenters covered examples of emotional labor in relationships and friendships, as well as, how to approach apologies in instances addressed in the presentation.