Durham students are trying to put an end to verbal bullying by eliminating words that people might use every day without thinking about the impact.
“I don’t say, ‘Don’t be a sissy,’ because it implies being feminine or associating with femininity is undesired or makes you weak,” said Breanna Byrd, 18, a graduate of the program.
“I don’t say, ‘Ghetto’ because it trivializes the struggles of impoverished people and communities,” said rising junior Samantha Baker, 15.
These Durham Academy students are saying a lot by expressing what they don’t say.
“I don’t say, ‘Boys will be boys’ because it negates responsibility for boys,” said graduate Justin Warren, 18.
“I don’t say, ‘I’m so OCD’ because it trivializes a real disorder that many people struggle with,” said rising senior, Anna Baker, 17.
The topics of the messages range from gender to nationality to intellectual disabilities.
“I think it shines a light on that your words have more power than you might think they do,” said Warren.
“I think a lot of times people use words without understanding their meaning or their implications,” added Anna Baker.
The year-long project is a collaboration of the Durham Academy Upper School’s Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA), Diversity Club and Advanced Photography class.
Students in photography teacher Harrison Haynes’ class were responsible for the pictures, the graphics and printing.
“Those are very brave kids and I think they’re really great role models for everyone in the community,” Haynes said.
He said the project helped bring together students from different backgrounds and merged lessons ranging from photography to vocabulary.
“I think this was an opportunity for students to not only talk about beliefs that they had, but also to share how they might articulate those beliefs,” he said.
“I hope they understand that language is important and the type of language you use around people really does have an effect on people.”
The “I Don’t Say” wording of the message aims to not tell others what to do but rather set an example.
“I hope that they realize that this is a really small thing that they can do that can make a large impact on people’s lives,” Samantha Baker said.
“I think this project gives a reason as to why and that’s more impactful than just telling the people not to say the words,” said Anna Baker.
The project is based on a Duke University campaign called “You Don’t Say?” which received national attention.