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Social Justice Journalism From Mercer Middle School Students

by Mercer Middle School

(This article was previously published by International Examiner and has been reprinted with permission)


It is a pleasure to present essays from Mercer Middle School. These students took a journalism class and want to learn more about social justice causes and ways they can make a difference, which comes through in their writing. When they wrote these articles, they were learning about why journalism matters and why it’s important.


Understanding and Stopping Anti-Asian Hate

by Zihui L.

Imagine how it feels like, getting blamed for something you didn’t do just because of your background and identity. Maybe it wouldn’t bother you at first and so you decide to ignore it, thinking that it will slowly fade away. But then, you realized that people with similar backgrounds as you are getting beaten up and hated on for things that we didn’t do. This is what happened to Asians of all age groups across the country. Now, we are struggling to find safety whenever we are out in the public. They are getting assaulted both verbally and physically; I even heard that customers came up and told them, “Asian people are stupid … Asians are the Chinese virus,” and in articles you can find how Asians are getting beaten up or even killed. This reporter wants to tell others not to blame others for problems that already happened in the past and move on. What is the point in blaming others for things that cannot be reverted?

In order to discover more, this reporter looked for sources to see others’ opinions and actions against anti-Asian attacks and the effects behind it. According to KUOW’s article “‘We Are Not Silent.’ Hundreds Denounce Anti-Asian Violence in Seattle,” “‘We saw this ugly trend surge a year ago, when COVID-19 first emerged in our state. One year later, we have a vaccine for the virus – but racism is still running rampant,’ Washington Governor Jay Inslee said in a recent statement.”

This quote suggests that even after a vaccine for the COVID-19, which is the cause of the rise in anti-Asian racist violence, that more people still held grudges against Asians than expected. For us to dig deeper into the anti-Asian violence and see how serious it is, this reporter learned that at Hing Hay Park, several people gave testimonies before the crowd. Noriko Nasu, a Japanese language teacher at Inglemoor High School, detailed a violent, unprovoked attack that left both her and her boyfriend with serious injuries last month. And according to Nasu, since the assault, she was then contacted by many others who shared their own story of abuse, and that nothing has been done about it. Seeing things from their experience and perspectives, it’s clear that people who experience the violent abuse caused by anti-Asian violence were seriously wounded both physically and mentally, and that no action was taken against the hate of others in order to share and demand their justice. However, this is just the beginning of the anti-Asian hate, especially since there’s already been lives lost because of it.

By looking into the past of anti-Asian violence before the pandemic, however, this reporter also learned that anti-Asian violence is nothing new. According to the KUOW’s article “‘We Are Not Silent.’ Hundreds Denounce Anti-Asian Violence in Seattle,” Khang Nguyen, an organizer at an anti-Asian violence rally in May, said, “Let’s be clear, anti-Asian sentiment and rhetoric have always existed in this country. From the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 to the Japanese Internment Camps of World War II — this is not new.” Anti-Asian racism has been around for a while now. However, it’s been getting worse since the pandemic outbreak, and even after the vaccine to COVID has been out.

At this point you might be wondering, what does this have to do with you? And it does have to do with you because who knows when it’s going to be you or your future generations that are going to be the victims of this racism and hate? We have to make sure that we are informed and act so that effects of this hate won’t reach the younger generation of kids, and the trauma that it brings to them might affect the rest of their lives. You might be wondering if there are any actions for you to do — one thing you can do is to stand up against anti-Asian hate for now, and others later. You may be surprised to find out how many people are getting hurt because of the discrimination against Asians happening right now.

Protestors marched after a rally in Hing Hay Park in April 2021 to show support stopping violence against Asians. (Photo: Maile Anderson)

The Reality of Being a Woman…

by Katie N.

We all remember when we were younger and teachers would  specifically ask the boys to help lift heavy things, girls were obligated to play jump rope or do cartwheels on the field. Girls couldn’t play basketball or soccer with the boys because  they weren’t supposed to play sports, they were only supposed to stick to “girly” things. That was my childhood, and I am sure I’m not the only one.  Women deserve to do things any human can do and not be viewed as an object or get attacked for liking something not “women-like.” Prejudice against women has been a thing since the beginning of time and unbelievably still a thing in the 21st century. What type of injustice do women have to deal with every day, what feelings do we have to hide away? What is the reality of being  a woman?

A recent community survey was provided to girls and women asking to share their experience in this world as a woman. A few responses consisted of being stereotyped, such as “not doing well in a sport” or being “too emotional.” Female athletes must be able to answer all the  sport questions boys throw at them to prove they actually like the sport. Women always somehow get judged and put down for whatever they do whether it’s playing a sport, reacting to a situation, literally ANYTHING. At first some people may think it’s not that serious, everybody gets pushed around at one point … however, that’s not all. How would you feel having your FREEDOM stripped from you? One person stated that their own father told them, “Your brother is a boy so he can go out whenever he wants; “You’re a girl so you can’t go anywhere.”  Why is it that  WOMEN can’t go out? What does gender have to do with the ability to be FREE?

Another big issue that some individuals mentioned was being “catcalled,” “body shamed/ sexualized,” and being victim blamed for rape/sexual assault situations. According to a report by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC), more than 90% of sexual assault victims on college campuses do not report. In our survey, several individuals elaborated that they’ve been taught to cover up, stay quiet, not go out to not get raped/sexually assaulted which is unbelievable! Although surveys do not speak for everyone, it is clear that a majority of women get told this and that to prevent the action of  SOMEONE ELSE and somehow STILL get blamed in the end. It’s crystal clear that a big reason those do not report is because they’re scared of society.    

Okay, but men go through bad things too! And in fact, that is very much true and is a topic for another day. But bringing up men and the things they go through during topics like these is very disrespectful, by saying that in a situation like this is a form of silencing women which is no surprise because this is the REALITY of being a woman. Women are continuously being silenced. Being physically harmed. Being harassed. Being judged. All of this because of  gender. Women have been experiencing misogyny, prejudice, and sexism since the beginning of time and demand for their feelings to be validated and receive the same respect and rights men have.  As SAAM (Sexual Assault Awareness Month) is approaching in April, you can visit NSVRC to get more information about what you can do to support. As for everyday actions, you can visit UN Women to see what small actions you can take to help.


Transgender Housing Crisis

by Xochitl V.

Homelessness is an incredibly pervasive issue in America. It affects thousands of people, and it’s only getting worse, and it’s largely affecting communities, such as the LGBTQ+ community, specifically transgender people, specifically trans youth. The housing crisis among these groups is a result of several things, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only made things worse. Overlooking these problems tends to be easier than facing them head on, but we need to stop ignoring such big issues and take action.

As we know by now, the youth housing crisis is bad and getting worse, especially in the trans community, and with LGBTQ+ Youth of Color. According to Housing and Homelessness from the National Center for Housing Equality, 20–40% of the 1.6 million homeless youth are trans identified. 1 in 3 shelters in New York will turn away trans people, and the average age of trans homelessness in New York is 13, according to Trans Student Educational Resources. This is due to lack of acceptance of trans people; children are being forced out of their homes at young ages. There are solutions to this, and they are simpler than what has been previously considered. According to a Seattle Times article “Seattle Group Takes Housing Crisis Into Its Own Hands, Buys a House for Queer and Transgender People of Color” by Naomi Ishisaka, a Seattle group called Queer The Land does just that and purchases a house that will house queer and trans Black and Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC). This house is desperately needed as 1 in 5 trans people face homelessness, and the racial discrimination and racial wealth gap even worsens the disparities within the BIPOC community. Of the 20–40 % of homeless LGBTQ+ people, 44% of them are Black and 26% are Latino.

This is important because transgender and People of Color experience homelessness at a much higher rate than their cisgender and white counterparts. We need to make it so that nobody ever has to worry about housing security, and now we know that there are ways to make that happen. “Pulling yourself up by your bootstraps” isn’t as easy as people with money make it seem, and facing homelessness head-on is necessary to put a stop to it. Long-term solutions take time, and they take money, but they are worth it, and they are achievable.


Being a Teen in 2021

by Malia M.

Imagine you’re a teen in 2021. Just think about what you think it’s like. Do you think it’s easy? I’m guessing you’re thinking about online school, sleeping all day, phones, video games, social media, maybe sports. However, there are countless things like mental health, insecurities, social life, and it’s also way more than just all of that. It’s not always as easy being a teen like some think. Things that teens struggle with are what is shaping our generation and people are going through this every day. I have seen countless amounts of videos of teenagers across the world saying how much they’re struggling and want to give up, and it’s not fun to watch people go through so much when we just want to have fun before being adults. What if there was a way that you could help someone or your own kid? There are many things that have caused them to feel a certain way and some things need to be brought to attention before it’s too late.

Over time, the reporter has learned from their community that there is a large number of teens feeling like they are not good enough. According to a survey that many teens from the community took, about 78% of teens who took the survey felt like they wanted to completely give up. This is and should be a topic people are talking about more because, these people are the same people who are the next generation. If this is something that’s going to be addressed, then we need to listen to our students, kids, siblings, etc. Most use music, dance, talk to friends and family to distract themselves or feel a little bit better. A small amount goes to their parents or a counselor for help, which if people are comfortable, is a really great option. Teens are stressed out, can’t see their friends in person and it’s affecting them. This indicates that we need to pay more attention to this topic because if we don’t and we don’t notice it in the people around us, then that determines what happens next.

Throughout my research I noticed that there is a big number of teens who have struggled with their mental health and their insecurities. Mental health is a really important topic and I feel like it is something that needs to be talked about more. According to the survey, COVID-19 has caused an eighth grader to be diagnosed with clinical depression because they have been doing nothing but be alone. And a seventh grader has felt they don’t look right because people’s “standards” make people insecure about themselves. This is not okay because we are only 13–14 and these are things that we shouldn’t be worrying about; we should be having fun with people and not worrying what other people think and struggle with things like mental health issues. But sadly, that’s the reality of our time. Adults think that COVID has just made us a little distant from people. However, that assumption is extremely false. The number of times I have seen videos of teens my age talk about their experiences with mental health and insecurities is too much to count which is not good.

​These topics are extremely important because the people struggling with these things are the same people who are going to be our next generation, and we need them here for it. These things could be the reason we don’t have a next generation and that needs to change. We need to make sure that we check in on one another, our students, our kids, our siblings, younger cousins, etc. It is important that you seek the help you need if you feel comfortable. It is also important to talk to your kids or students if you feel something is off. The effects of this will be really important in the future. You might be surprised to find that these solutions can be super effective and sometimes just talking to someone may have a huge effect on someone.


Our Plastic World

by Joyce H.

Imagine, in 20 years everywhere we walk we see plastic on the floor. Plastic is rapidly increasing in oceans. Did you know that 79% of plastic has ended up in landfills or the environment? This is because of some humans being careless about the environment. Millions of animals are killed because of plastic every year, almost 700 species have been affected by this. As Kevin Bacon said, “We are being choked to death by the amount of plastic that we throw away. It’s killing our oceans. It’s entering into our bodies in the fish we eat.” Do you feel guilty about how you treat the world?

To find out more, this reporter interviewed her friends to get opinions about how much plastic they see in oceans and sidewalks. According to her friends, when they go to parks, restaurants, on sunny days to walk, 80% of the time they see plastic there. What this data shows us is that there is so much plastic everywhere we go, we can’t get away from it. This reporter learned that plastic doesn’t only affect humans but the animals and the planet. What was revealed here is that 100 million marine animals die from just plastic waste every year. There is even a quote “skip a straw for a turtle,” since 1,000 turtles just die from plastic straws each year. That shows how serious plastic can affect animal lives. Animals choking on plastic. Animals eating plastic. Animals have plastic in their homes. Animals getting their heads covered by plastic bags. That symbolizes that we must try our best to not have plastic end up in oceans for the safety of animals. It’s crazy how the world produces 380 million tons of plastic each year, only 25% is recycled. It tells us we need to work together and try to recycle as much plastic as we can so it doesn’t end up in oceans and outside on the ground.  

Through some additional search, this reporter also learned that plastic packaging places produce a lot of plastic. Globally, about 40% of plastics are used as packaging. However, cardboard is eco-friendly (100% recyclable) and being used more often than before. According to the article “Will Cardboard Packaging Replace Plastic?”, “Custom printed cardboard boxes in the UK are unlike plastic in many ways. Plastic is not dissolved in water even in many years, plastic if an animal eats it, it doesn’t get digested. So, it is very harmful in that sense. Plastic is being replaced with other materials because of these reasons, and so plastic can’t be trusted when the health and safety of the world is considered. Also, cardboard packaging is cheaper than plastic now, high quality and highly customized packaging would cost you as much as an average low quality plastic packaging.” This indicates that we need to change plastic packaging places to cardboard because it’s cheaper, durable, and 100% recyclable.

​It’s becoming clear that plastic is affecting all of us each year; we must stop using it as much as we can every day. Even though plastic is convenient, we need to try to prevent plastic going everywhere. It can be hard to stop using it because it is so convenient for our daily lives. However, we have to sacrifice some things for the better. Would you like to plastic on the floor hurting the environment, knowing that is going to kill many animals?

Image attributed to Paolo Margari (under a Creative Commons, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license).

President Biden’s Environmental Progress

by Avellina C.

Somewhere out in the great big universe, there is a beautiful world untouched by change, untouched by the slow march to the inevitable, the inevitable that is death. For years, global leaders have been slowing down the monster’s steps; however, the time has come to stop the beast altogether. Because we may not even have much time left. The monster of climate change is upon us, and we need to give it everything we got. In the last four years, there have been many devastating laws undone, but one was worse than all of them put together. When former President Trump left the Paris Climate Accord, he didn’t only leave an agreement, he also tweaked our future. Most recently, the new president, Joe Biden, has rejoined the Accord, putting us back on track to stop climate change. But what else has President Joe Biden done? In the next words of this essay, we will go over what the current president is doing, and has done, to stop the impending march to death, or at least slow it.

President Biden not only rejoined the Paris Climate Accord, but he also set into motion a handful of executive orders, and appointed an administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Michael S. Regan. Regan’s job is to advise and prioritize in favor of environmental justice. The president’s response to changing the outcome of climate change has been received and accepted by most of Americans, it does help everyone. In a recently conducted survey, 100% of all responses agreed that this administration is doing better in stopping climate change than the former, also agreeing that halting climate change is particularly important. Sixty-seven percent of responses have heard of Biden’s executive orders, which is good, it means Biden has created something that appeals to the younger masses. Although this survey does not speak for everyone, it does give insight into how the U.S.’s population is responding to his response.

As said before, Biden also set into motion an order that would at once review all earlier orders passed between 2017 and 2019, and then he moved to abolish those that could harm the environment. One of those laws was the 2019 permit for the Keystone Pipeline, which would have damaged the surrounding environment.

In conclusion, President Biden’s new bills have been met with enthusiasm and could change the way the world is heading. And yes, he could be doing more; however, he has been in office for less than 100 days (that’s 3 and a half months)! The president will pass more bills and stop climate change as fast as he can. So, if you see a bill that addresses you or your community, think: How can I support my country in stopping climate change? Do that, and we are one step closer to stopping the beast.


Why Do Women’s Soccer Teams Earn Less Money Than Men’s Teams?

by Natalie Z.

Go to any high school and you will see kids playing soccer. Most likely all of them would be boys. But why? Why is it mostly guys who play soccer at schools? It is proven that professional girls’ soccer teams earn over $20,000 less than the men’s teams. Totally unfair, right? When I was younger, I was the only girl to play soccer with all the boys at recess. When I first started playing with them, people would say things like “Why are you playing soccer?” and “Go play with your friends on the playground.”

After getting those remarks so often as a third and fourth grader, I got used to it and ignored everyone. Why do girls always get questioned when they play soccer? Why do women’s teams earn less money than men’s teams?

Through some additional research from The Washington Post, it said, “According to a class action lawsuit the team filed, the players are not treated as equals to the men’s National team.” I agree with this. Why give women less money when they’ve won four world cups while the men’s team has won none? This shows that no matter what, it always comes back to someone’s   gender.

According to another part in The Washington Post, “The lawsuit from the women’s team sketched out the following scenario: If both teams played 20 friendlies in a year, a top-tier women’s national team player would earn $164,320 less, or 38% of the compensation of a similarly situated MNT player.” The question is why? Why do the amazing women who fought to where they are at this time still earn less money than men?

Another bit of research I found was from a documentary USWNT: A Nation’s Story and in it, Meg Linehan the journalist for The Athletic states, “You want us to be great, but then when we are great, you don’t want us to be that great?” That quote just shows how different people speak to certain people and certain genders. Another part in the documentary, Alex Morgan, a forward on the USWNT, says, “Even if we were a little arrogant, if we were male footballers, that would just be considered confidence.” This quote just totally explains how people see women differently than men. When women want to celebrate a win or talk about something they did that they are proud of, people will always find a way to downgrade them. For example, “Where’s your proof?”, “Anyone could do that.” This relates to the main question because it shows, not only do women get paid less just because years and years ago a rule was made, but also, they get treated differently just for being a woman.

You may wonder why this matters; it matters because we need a change. We need equal pay in this world in order to proceed well and have a better outcome in life. We all know that women should not be seen as different than men, especially in the sports business. You may be surprised to find out how many people feel the same way. If you want to help, you can research and learn more about this topic.


Featured image attributed to Jon S (under a Creative Commons, CC BY 2.0 license).

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