Opinion: There is no excuse


Photo credit: Digital illustration by Chloe Fidler

Digital illustration that states: “Most sincerely, Vaughan and Chloe.” As members of the two affinity groups that were targeted by this hate speech, we shared our emotions and reflected on how this situation impacted us as individuals.

Dear student body,

Were you hurt, too?

Were you shocked, too?

Were you angry, too?

Well, we were. And in many ways, we still are. 

As members of the two affinity groups that were targeted by this hate speech, it has been extremely difficult to process all of our emotions. However, we also want to acknowledge and address the difference in severity between these two instances, as the N-word is a historically racist slur that can be traced back to slavery and continues to oppress members of the Black and African American community to this day.

On Dec. 15 and Jan. 4, Archer community members were notified that there were two instances of hate speech that happened on campus. 

Now knowing that the perpetrator(s) walk the same halls as us, stand in the same line for lunch as us and use the same bathroom as us feels troubling, but above all confusing. It is hard to comprehend that this event occurred at Archer. This didn’t happen at an institution far, far away, but at a school that is our second home. Our safe place. 

We want to make it clear that our interest does not reside in who committed the wrongdoings. We want to know how this even happened to begin with. 

Although the incident was limited to the bathroom, it has now spread beyond that point. The safe haven that once protected us needs to be rebuilt. As seniors who have attended Archer since middle school, this marks the first instance of hate speech that truly affected us in a mentally-troubling way. 

Time and time again, we find ourselves in the same position, telling similar stories about harmful microaggressions toward people of color, anti-Semitic jokes and the apparent double standards that make allowances for one race over the other.

As we see our peers return to normalcy, we can’t help but wonder if they have fully moved on and healed. Are we the only ones that still feel a sense of disappointment?

This behavior has been condemned by faculty and staff, yet, it is imperative to know that it is also condemned by us, the students. 

When we take a minute to think about what was going through the perpetrator(s) head, we can only think of explanations, not excuses. The bottom line is this: there are no excuses. No amount of pressure or temptation can justify this unfathomable behavior.

An aversion to empathy is the driving force behind committing and participating in hate speech. 

According to Dr. Naomi Elster, “Science backs up the idea that speech can cause deeper wounds at both societal and personal levels than hurt feelings. Neurological and sociological research has proven that hate speech leads to ‘a dehumanizing effect’ which lessens our empathy for other people.”

This “dehumanizing effect” Elster described elicits a never-ending chain reaction that can plague all parties involved if real social change does not occur. What one might think is just a lighthearted “joke” can be offensive and profoundly damaging. 

Teenagers’ usage of social media drastically increased during the pandemic, leading to the desensitization of careless and harmful sentiments being posted on social media. 

Reminder: we are not online anymore.

To be completely clear, we do not condone cyberhate of any kind. But, it is one thing to hide behind your screen when spewing these words of hate, not knowing who will receive these messages. When you intentionally take out a pencil or a pen and write these words onto a post-it note in your school bathroom, knowing your friends, teachers and fellow classmates will see it, that is a sign that there is no empathy left.

We should be moving forward, forgiving but not forgetting. 

We ask you to remember that your words carry weight and that your actions have consequences. 

Respect is the bare minimum. 

We have to do better.

Most sincerely,

Vaughan and Chloe