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May 28 2017
by Victoria Cheng

This High School Student Gave the Most Epic Presentation on Microaggressions

By Victoria Cheng - May 28 2017
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Final projects could be a pain, but this courageous high school student took a chance to shine a light onto a sensitive topic: microaggressions. And she did so in the most epic way possible.

Aretha Bernard, a senior at Alexander Hamilton High School in Los Angeles, California, wrote a 22-page paper on microaggressions as the final assignment for her Advanced Placement Psychology class. Using not only charts and factual evidence, but also testimony from three psychologists, she wrote about the effects of microaggressions on its victims.

Since her assignment was on a topic of her choice, Barnard decided to make it more personal and write about something that she had experienced before her AP test.

“So I was texting my friends, who aren't of a minority, before we had to take our exam in the library and we expressed how we were all dreading taking the test,” she told Fresh U. “Though, I thought I'd get to the testing room a little early to be safe... only to find that they were having a study session that wasn't mentioned to me. They discussed topics, but didn't want to include me. When we got in the testing room, they kept saying ‘you're gonna do great, you got this, love you! Don't worry. You good?’ As if I had a reason to be nervous or couldn't excel on the exam which made me upset, but I dismissed the situation.”

Because this is such a difficult and delicate topic, Bernard did feel apprehensive presenting her paper on microaggressions, but persisted on knowing that this topic has a great social importance.

“I knew that I was taking a risk and putting my grade on the line, but the subject is so important and no one wants to talk about it,” she said. “I felt I needed to speak up.”

Bernard’s final paper was also to be accompanied by a presentation, and the response of her classmates seemed to be both uncomfortable and intrigued.

“So, my first slide said ‘microaggression’ where I explained what it is,” Bernard said. “Then, that's when I got to my you're all racist slide. That's when everyone tuned in and got extremely silent with the exception of two chuckles.The smile you see in the picture was a rather nervous/anxious one after no one said anything. It made me eager to spread more knowledge”

Bernard's paper was greeted with an overwhelming response on Twitter, gathering over 170,000 likes and almost 50,000 retweets.

“It's interesting how people analyze a single picture and draw conclusions, but I'm so grateful for those who were more interested in the full essay because I really just wanna raise awareness on that topic,” she said.

Bernard has given her paper to blogs to spread awareness about microaggressions, and you can check it out below.

“I hope people are bold enough to discuss the topic amongst their peers and address the perpetrator when it occurs because the psychological effects are just as subtle as the racism,” she said. “Microaggression is alive and well. We have to start somewhere.”

Lead Image Credit: @arethafb via Twitter

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Victoria Cheng -

Victoria Cheng is a freshman studying journalism at Baruch College in New York. She loves to drink tea, read and sing just about any type of music. Follow her on Instagram @itsvickyytoria

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