— DISCLAIMER: this is an opinion article, The Independent Dragon does not endorse or direct the content of this article —
While on the surface it may seem harmless, the use of hate speech can lead to more anguish than you thought.
What is hate speech?
Hate speech refers to verbal discrimination against individuals based on identity factors such as race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, etc. It is frequently used to spread oppressive ideology towards marginalized groups and hurt those within these communities. This can take the form of using slurs, dehumanizing others, using abusive language, promoting stereotypes, and spreading misinformation about said people.
Although not illegal, over time, hate speech can spread prejudice on an institutional level–something that is illegal. Bias begins on a small scale, yet can eventually develop into something major in several ways.
The harm it causes
Discrimination begins as an ideology–a mere concept of superiority– however, once it gets let out into the world through hate speech, it can snowball into so much more. As the ideas of hate speech spread, they can become normalized in society and internalized into the minds of those who are targeted by it. As people begin internalizing that self-hatred, trauma can develop. This psychological harm could potentially lead to mental health conditions including anxiety, depression, and PTSD.
As hateful, discriminative ideas continue spreading, they can become embedded into the minds of many. When people in power develop these biased mindsets, it can affect the systems they run and become systemic discrimination.
Another way hate speech can produce physical results stems from mental harm. While there have been no concrete studies to determine it, the theory that hate speech can shorten one’s lifespan and make them more prone to age-related illnesses has a great deal of logical evidence to back it up. Seeing as discrimination is known to fuel psychological distress, which shortens telomeres, it is not absurd to assume that hate speech can also harm our telomeres. Telomeres are mechanisms closely related to cellular aging. They are located at the end of our chromosomes to protect the DNA. As time progresses, telomeres shorten, making our DNA less protected. Mental harm shortens our telomeres, causing the DNA of those affected by hate speech more prone to damage.
Combating hate speech at our school
Here at Summit K2, hate speech is prevalent within student interactions. I am currently leading a campaign with the Service & Justice Club to limit the amount of hate speech on campus. We intend on collaborating with the school newspaper (through this very article) as well as the school’s QSA for an anti-hate speech presentation.
Katie Hernandez Paez, one of our anti-hate speech campaign leaders, has witnessed interpersonal hate speech at our school since 2019. She says, “Hate speech has been normalized on our campus at this point, students have continued to say it even after they’ve been warned repeatedly. I’ve been at Summit for three years and ever since freshman year, people don’t seem to understand the impact slurs can have on the people around them. In summary, it’s overall very annoying.”
You can combat hate speech yourself by:
- Learning about discrimination by doing research.
- Reflecting on your personal biases.
- Speaking up when you witness hate speech.
- Educating others on the harm it can cause.
- Supporting those who you hear being targeted by hate speech.