When a student walks through RHS, he or she can feel the community that has grown around the students and the teachers. In addition to a tight community, RHS boasts a variety of cultures. Every year, the school hosts Asian Festival, a celebration dedicated to showcasing both modern and traditional cultural Asian performances. To further educate its students, RHS flies a pride flag in the Campus Center and teaches about genocides in various History and English classes. But when one truly spend time in RHS’s confinement, he or she may realize this sense of acceptance is not as present as it appears to b e. Although the RHS administration attempts to mold students to be more accepting, it is the influences of outside sources like social media and the internet that have a stronger impact on student behavior.
It is safe to say that social media has a heavy impact on not only our lifestyle but also on our actions. Every video that we watch, every picture that we look at, and every tweet that we read has an influence on our future actions. Whether it is subtle or severe, the influence of social media is undeniable. For instance, if viewers were foolish enough to follow the Tide Pod challenge, what would stop them from throwing a racial slur? The latter is more subtle and can be largely affected by the media we consume and the people around us. The little bits of time spent on social media can subconsciously change our lifestyle in major ways.
Furthermore, RHS students observe racism and racial slurs every day. Music and television are common channels of such behavior. Music in particular has been shown to have an undeniable impact on mental health. However, modern music — which usually consists of “cool” rappers and singers — has not had a positive impact on today’s society. Similar to TV and social media, many rappers include racial slurs and talk about drugs. Over time, witnessing the casual usage of such inappropriate words around RHS is not uncommon.
In this past year, RHS students sat through the Hate Has No Place… Love Lives Here presentation by Detective David D’Amico. He included a pyramid that displayed the levels of hate with two extreme ends beginning with acts of bias and ending with genocide. Although the anecdotes Detective D’ Amico shared are unlikely to manifest in the RHS community, he shone a light on how each step of the pyramid led to the next. This presentation was meant to get students to be more accepting of other cultures because of a recent incident in which a student engraved Star of David and a swastika in a girls’ bathroom stall. However, Detective D’Amico’s choice of words was questionable and seemed to contradict the behavior he warned the students against. He threw the occasional racial slur and even went to show a graphic video of previous hate crimes. Within the video, the supporting music really seemed to be out of touch with the message Detective D’Amico was sending. While he firmly cautioned against hate, the lyrics of the background music were supporting hate. Although the presentation was a major learning experience and a valiant effort, it may have fallen short of its full potential. When listening to the conversations of RHS students, one can still hear racial slurs occasionally. When a student walks into the bathroom, the old engravings have been replaced by new ones.
Although much of the RHS community is accepting, there is still a long way to go before the student body becomes a fully accepting group. Students are at an age where some of them make poor decisions. It would not be fair to say that all RHS students make the same decisions out of hate or bad intentions. But those that take the initiative to begin at the first step of the pyramid have to be mindful of the impact that they may have on others around them.
Graphic: Janice Yoon