As a 19 year-old, I would like to consider myself fairly educated on social issues. I would like to think that I am inclusive and do my best to recognize injustice. I was not always this way though. I sometimes think back to things I used to say and do and think when I was younger and I wish I could go back and talk to my younger self and explain why what the things I said and did and thought were not okay.
If I got the chance to do that, I would like to think that it would go a little something like this.
Dear 14 year-old me, I have a few things to explain to you. You may think that some of the things you say and do and think are not harmful or wrong, but they are and I need to tell you why.
When you say the n-word and think it is okay because you do not mean anything by it, that is wrong. That is not okay. Even though you do not mean anything by it does not mean that it is not a word filled with hate. You may think it is cool to call your friends that, but it is not. That word has history behind it. The blood, sweat and tears of people of color who were enslaved by your ancestors sit behind that word. It is not trendy or cool to use that word. Stop saying it.
When you shame other girls for wearing skimpy clothing, that is not okay. Stop expressing your opinion on what they do and do not do with their bodies. It is not your body, it is theirs. It is your job to love other girls and lift them up, not shame them. Stop pretending you are better than other girls because you dress more conservatively. The coverage of someone’s clothing does not determine their worth. Every girl is just as valuable and lovely regardless of how much skin she shows.
When you insult someone by saying “Wow that’s gay,” you do not even realize what you are saying. Insulting something or someone by calling them gay insinuates that the word gay is synonymous with bad or uncool. You may not even realize it yet, but you are not straight, and one day you will realize that. Start standing up for gay rights, even on a small scale and stop using gay as an insult.
When you make jokes about rape, do you realize that one in every seventy-one men as well as one in every five women will experience rape in their lifetime? It is not funny and it is not cool to make jokes about someone losing their peace of mind when they walk down the street. It is not humorous to joke about someone being violated in the worst of ways. Rape is not funny, it is one of the most unreported and overlooked crimes in America, with thousands of rape kits going untested every year.
One day you will realize that saying and doing and thinking such things is not okay, and you will understand. You will understand and you will write an article when you are 19 and own up to all of the problematic actions of your past. You will one day understand why it is not okay to say the n-word, why you should not slut shame other girls, why you should not use “gay” as an insult and why rape jokes are not funny.
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