ADVERTISEMENT

As a teenager, I've found that we, as a generation, have a lot to say. Granted, not all of it is worth saying, but we put it out there anyway. Whether it is through Facebook, Twitter or blogging your heart out on tumblr, we all want our voices to be heard by someone, to be recognized.

However, when it comes to speaking up against something that's wrong, whether it is blatant, physical bullying or merely a friend saying "That's so gay," many of us remain silent. It's easy to sign anti-bullying pledges and promise to follow Rachel's Challenge, but actually being the one person who stands up and says, "No, that's wrong," is a whole different story.

We justify our silence. It's usually not in a fight in the middle of a school hallway or a bully sucker-punching a kid that is the issue. It's words. Maybe it's a rumor, something heard from a friend, or maybe it's a hurtful name, a petty insult. Yet we stand by and watch. Maybe because it's a friend spitting out the nasty words, or maybe it's because "no one really likes her anyway." But that shouldn't really matter. By not saying anything we are just as bad as the kid who started the fight, the girl who used the cruel name or the boy who pushed someone down and laughed. It's the same as condoning that behavior. Our teachers and parents tell us this all the time. They grind it into our brains. None of us really believes it, but it's true.

Our silence signifies that we are OK with the careless tossing of vicious words. We watch, staring down at our hands or pretending we didn't hear. That's the easy thing to do. That silence is overpowering, overwhelming, deafening. This silence makes it much too easy to fade into the crowd, to be just another passive teenager. It's accepted, even nonverbally encouraged to just let it go. It's even harder when the wrongdoers are friends. "What will they think of me?" or "Will they get mad at me, hate me?" are often phrases that cross the minds of bystanders. However, if the person is a true friend, they'll listen, hopefully take it to heart and try to improve. However, many would rather say nothing at all.

Teenagers need to stand up. We need to speak out against that which is just plain wrong. Words are pointless and having a voice is useless unless used to speak in ways that improve the lives of others. This silence from our generation, people who want desperately to be heard, is terrifying. We need to speak with words that not only will be heard, but are worth hearing. We need to fill up that silence with words of meaning.

***

Justice Namaste is a junior at Williamsville East High School.