“I wanted to bring awareness to the issue at hand in an informative way.”
17 year old Aretha Bernard has become an internet sensation because of her presentation on racial microaggressions. The high schooler shared a photo of her class presentation in which a projector is showing the words “You’re all racist.” Till now the post has scored around 24000 retweets and 74000 likes along with a long list of supportive comments in line. So what’s so special about that class presentation?
The presentation titled “Microaggression or Overthinking” is a 22 page essay. It begins with the overview of microaggressions and a brief explanation of the term as: “subtle racism [or] casual degradation of any minority group that neither the victim nor perpetrator may entirely understand.”
The presentation included a class survey designed to identify if any of the students have experienced microaggressions at school; surprisingly nearly half of the class responded with affirmative results to most of the questions included in that survey.
Just completed my last presentation of my high school career and this was by far the most exciting one ✨ pic.twitter.com/3ZaetWEV5s
— Aretha 🌺 (@arethafb) May 24, 2017
In an interview with Teen Vogue, Aretha explained her motivation behind working on this unique class presentation topic.
After experiencing an overwhelming amount of microaggressions from her fellow students, whom she thought of as friends, Arena decided to bring it out in open to increase awareness. She said, “I knew they were unaware of their actions, but nevertheless, I wanted to bring awareness to the issue at hand in an informative way.”
Bernard has surely done a wonderful job. The presentation has valuable data to make a solid base for highlighting the importance of this issue. In addition to the class survey results, Arena included proven data results from different psychologists. These results conclude that microaggressions are potentially harmful because of their invisibility to others.
“People of color, when encountered with microaggression, experience an internal dilemma,” the 17-year-old discusses in her essay. “They begin questioning themselves asking, ‘Did I interpret that right? Should I say something? Am I overreacting? What did [they] mean by that?’ Often times, the victim may not address the issue at hand which is detrimental to their health and they may not even know it.”
Arena thinks that her presentation has surely made a difference and made an impact on her classmates.
“Throughout my presentation, they grew more interested in my topic and were pretty much speechless,” she tells Teen Vogue. “I didn’t hold back, but I didn’t attack anyone either.”
The social media came in really handy in spreading the word. Arena’s message was resonated with thousands of users—which was something she wasn’t really expecting. “The amount of recognition I’m getting on Twitter makes my heart flutter and phone freeze,” she says. “I’m getting different responses, but the majority of the responses are positive. I was surprised that these many people wanted to see the essay. Though, that was my goal. For people to become aware.”
With this overwhelming support by thousands of people, we can say safely say that Arena’s message about “microaggressions” has resonated quite clearly.