The Student News Source of Sparkman High School

Words Do Hurt

May 3, 2017

“Sticks and stones may break our bones but words can never hurt you.” That is the old adage often said to protect one from words that hurt. In reality, though, words can hurt just as much if not more than those hypothetical sticks and stones.

Before she was bullied about being overweight, sophomore Delaney Smith described herself as a happy go-lucky teenager who was mentally forced into taking these words seriously. She discovered that there was an “F” word that hurt more than any obscenity — fat.

“I got bullied a lot in middle school,” Smith said. “I developed an eating disorder for a while because I felt that’s how people really saw me. I pushed myself away from boys and my friends.”

Smith turned to self harming and limited eating due to her broken body image. After a few years, Smith turned to God and received treatment from women at her church. There was no more chill in the air, thanks to the staggering support from her friends and family. The insecurities and self-doubt lived in Smith.

One does not have to look far to see the impact of hurtful — and sometimes ignorant — words. The 2016 presidential election, deemed historic because a non-political candidate won, can be historic in the way hurtful words became the norm. Words like “nasty woman,” “bad hombres” and mocking people with disabilities were met with applause.

This has brought up a sense of boldness among Trump supporters and the amount of hate crimes has increased since the election. On Nov. 14,  USA Today quoted the president of the Southern Law Poverty Center Richard Cohen as saying, “The white supremacists out there are celebrating his [Donald Trump] victory and many are feeling their oats.”

Junior Trenton Draper has experienced what it is like to be African-American in a country where racism is still a thing. He knows the hurt the “N” word can cause and has recently dealt with the hurt a classmate can inflict by directing this word to him. Draper thought the word was beginning to disappear from popular culture, but its continued inclusion in classic works of literature has sparked controversy.

“We feel like we are in a society that has progressed so much and updated, so being called something like that really makes you feel like you are a part of the past,” Draper said.

As much as racism kills America, it can be hurtful on the other side of the fence as well. White men are being labeled as “racist” and “bigots” for their political support for “presidential-elect” Donald Trump. Sophomore Garrett Mitchell believes his meaning behind supporting Trump is not being heard over the comments that he must be racist in order to have worn a Trump-Pence shirt  in the days leading up to the election.

“If they’re not willing to look at why I like Trump, they’re really being biased and not open minded to actually see my opinion,” Mitchell said.

Politics aside, some of the most hurtful words come when teens espouse their beliefs on others’ sexual orientation. According to the bullying prevention program, 93 percent of teenagers hear derogatory words about their sexual orientation at least once in awhile and half reporting that they hear such words daily at school and in the community.

Transgender student junior Evan Kachel, started his legal name change process in December of last year. The change was official in February. Since then, common slurs have been used online and in school.

“I came out to my parents in the seventh grade. I started out with a slow transition, not making too much of a drastic change. I began to feel totally comfortable dressing male and being called ‘he’,” Kachel said.

Most of his friends and teachers began calling him Evan in middle school, making him feel more at home. It was not long before some people liked to call him “she” on purpose to get a reaction out of him.

“It is still uncomfortable when people who have no intention to hurt me use female pronouns,” Kachel said. “I do a good job of staying away from negativity.”

Like Kachel and the others, junior Natalie Craney knows how words can hurt. She has deemed herself guardian to an autistic classmate, junior Rose Lange. Craney and Lange have been sitting with each other ever since the first day of school when Craney told Lange that she loved her shirt.

“She has a Youtube channel that got leaked at her old school, where kids would comment about her autism. She isn’t aware of what these words mean,” Craney said. “I absolutely hate it.”

Throughout the friendship, Craney noticed a few comments made to Lange online and in school and finds her equivalent to her own sister. Craney’s older sister was bullied in sixth grade to where she could not even walk through the doors due to the same words brought upon Lange.

“She decided she was going to be homeschooled because she couldn’t take it,” Craney said. “I feel a connection to Rose and I wish I could’ve been there for my sister when she was in school and I don’t want Rose to go through it alone.”

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