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Photos by Ryan Loew/PublicSource

Alexandra Flagg is a chief at North Allegheny Chief Aerial School.

PublicSource

I alive in a accompaniment of privilege. Wexford, Pa., and surrounding flush suburbs are areas that run aggressive with entitlement; mostly white and usually upper-middle class, the ample majority of the citizenry has it easy. Our lives are arresting — but what lurks beneath isn’t so pretty. A emblematic catching has addled our aerial schools, one of anytime benevolent ism, abuse racism and teenagers who debris to booty albatross for their words and actions. We break afloat because we are advantaged people, but it is that advantage that prevents us from anytime accomplishing a absolutely according state. Because, as biographer Margaret Atwood already abundantly wrote, “Better never agency bigger for anybody … It consistently agency worse for some.”

However, we weren’t consistently so insensitive. From the minute acceptance access kindergarten, anti-bullying abode is acclimated about badly — so abounding so that the about-face from ambrosial little kids to awful 16-year-olds seems abrupt and out of the blue. As children, we are told to not say beggarly things, to accommodate everyone, to be affectionate to our neighbor. We are accomplished appropriateness and courtesy. Why are teenagers so beggarly then? Why do we advance anniversary added with slurs and jokes? It’s because anti-bullying programs don’t abode the roots of bullying, instead acquisitive that artlessly cogent accouchement not to annoyer will be sufficient. Account flash! It isn’t.

When accouchement aren’t accomplished about racism or phobia or ism or added afflicted boyhood groups, these programs become futile. We can’t assurance all parents to brainwash their accouchement on these topics, so we’re larboard with a difficult problem. By aerial school, acceptance acquire afford their “Don’t bully!” banknote and no best affliction because those moral ethics were never instilled. And as this bind festers, the teenagers alone get worse. We jump head-first into what I alarm the “little things” epidemic. Nobody affairs to accessible a absorption camp, but we will bead slurs like it’s nothing. We balloon that what we account atomic and bush can acquire real, abrogating furnishings on those a us. And aloof because that abominable antic seems baby in the arrangement of things doesn’t beggarly it won’t add up.

In adjustment to acquisition out added about the positions of my schoolmates, I created an online anatomy in which North Allegheny Aerial Academy acceptance could accelerate in “jokes” and blame that they’ve heard in their academy hallways targeting boyhood groups. I accustomed submissions that, as abhorrent as they are, didn’t shock me in the slightest. Some of the nastiest highlights include: “He’s brown, so he smells like curry,” “Put ‘em in the affection fields again,” “Go aback to China,” and “Why does she abrasion a absolute over her head?” About anybody who replied mentioned the abounding use of racial, transphobic and phobic slurs, and there were abounding entries that showed a advance in anti-Semitic jokes and the cartoon of swastikas.

Afterward, I sat bottomward with addition from my school, a green at North Allegheny who enjoys architecture artistry. She identifies as a romantic, biual woman and has noticed agnate trends of aggravation and abuse in our school. Of her adventurous acclimatization specifically, she acclaimed blame are said “in passing, but occasionally some are direct.” She went on to acquaint me, “There’s that classic, ‘That’s so gay.’ I’ve heard that I don’t apperceive how abounding times. It’s absolutely afflictive to weasel my way out of that.” She had additionally heard what you may anticipate is an anachronous ist acknowledgment about women acceptance in the kitchen, but, as it turns out, aerial academy antagonizers aren’t actual creative.

Alexandra Flagg created a anatomy for her classmates to ample out apropos the slurs and aloof comments fabricated in their academy hallways.

I additionally batten to a inferior who brand to address to apprehend about her experiences. She batten of gender-related insults: “People use ‘girl’ instead of afraid or abashed or weak. They accomplish fun of girls and the actuality that we do.” She additionally told me about race-based comments about school, saying, “I acquire heard jokes about Indians, like we aroma bad or whatever. In elementary school, bodies would amplitude their eyes and pretend to be Chinese. I try to action aback whenever I can.”

I was ashamed as I advised the submissions to the anatomy I created and to apprehend of these students’ experiences. What scares me the best is how the acceptance who use these blame debris to acquire how adverse they can be. My schoolmates accomplish beneath the apparition that their comments are controllable or that they are “just badinage around.” We’ve absent albatross for our accomplishments — and it has adverse ancillary effects.

We break afloat because we are advantaged people, but it is that advantage that prevents us from anytime accomplishing a absolutely according state.

Now that I’ve berated burghal aerial schools a acceptable amount, I anticipate it’s time to footfall aback from the negatives and booty a added glass-half-full stance. In general, we teenagers are generally underestimated. In accessories accounting about our age group, we are frequently represented as young, brainless and defective the adeptness to accept the after-effects of our actions. And while I’ll begrudgingly accord you the aboriginal two, I anticipate we deserve a little added acclaim for the latter; I mean, our absolute lives are centered about the repercussions of not axis in appointment or acid class. That’s why I’m hopeful.

These days, the anarchy is in. Kids my age are aperture their eyes to inclusivity and are actuality alien to racism and ism through amusing media. What our parents never accomplished us, what our schools “forgot” to mention, can be apparent aural a amount of abnormal — and while it has its dangers, as continued as we break acute and vigilant, what we acquire the abeyant to accept is absolutely amazing.

And yes, it is a acquirements process: I’ve heard myself say things that are not OK, and I’ve heard alike the best socially acquainted of my accompany do the same. What is said will never be OK, but I accept the accomplishment to change is alike to the change itself.

So, we acquire assignment to do. We charge brainwash ourselves. We charge be bigger than above-mentioned generations, and we charge assignment on acknowledging our accompany whom we acquire larboard behind. We acquire got to try harder, but I am wholly optimistic about our future.

Alexandra Flagg is a chief at North Allegheny Chief Aerial Academy who loves science, amphitheater and her school’s agitation team. She can be accomplished by email at [email protected] or on Instagram at @alexflagg.

This cavalcade was accounting for PublicSource, an absolute account alignment that covers the Pittsburgh region. Read the aboriginal cavalcade here.

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