Exploring Diversity, Challenging Hate


There is no denying that everyone develops biased opinions. It is human nature for people to judge others based on their appearance or unique qualities. Sometimes it is just “easier” for people to make assumptions about another person, without even trying to get to know them.

The way people fill the gap in their minds between the known and the unknown, is to fill it with a stereotype. We fall victim to making these prejudgments everyday about people and we do not even realize it. However, there are people in the world who choose to discriminate against certain individuals in hurtful ways just because of their differences. It is wrong, hateful, and one of the major flaws of the human race. Even though we will never be able to completely eliminate prejudice, we can try to prevent the scarring actions that come as a result of it.

Keynote Speaker, Jacqueline Murkatete

Last week, I was given the opportunity to attend the annual Anti-Defamation League (ADL) Youth Leadership Conference at the University of Pennsylvania as a member of No Place for Hate. At the event, students from all over New Jersey and Pennsylvania came together to tackle the issue of hate crimes, bullying, and discrimination in the world.

As a collective group, we listened to keynote speaker and human rights activist, Jacqueline Murekatete, who is one of the few survivors from the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. Her speech was incredibly powerful and inspired me to become more involved with ADL in the future.

Mrs. Murekatete’s story truly showed how cruel the world can be and how one person’s opinion is able to influence an entire country. The genocide against her people only escalated, because the Rwanda citizens made the decision to participate. Her experiences prove that we live in a world of mostly followers, not leaders. It takes one strong person to take a stand in a crowd.

The No Place for Hate Logo

After the presentation, all of the students were divided into small groups whom they would attend a leadership workshop with. The purpose of the workshops were to explore the value of diversity, how to overcome discrimination against race and sexuality, and brainstorm ideas that we could bring back to our own schools to initiate change.

The groups of students were very diverse, since they were all from different ethnic backgrounds. Right from the start, it clear which students were the outspoken ones, while other were much quieter and hesitant to speak. However, by the end of the workshop, all of the students eagerly wanted to contribute to the discussion.

Everyone, including myself, felt comfortable sharing their personal stories related to bullying. I felt as if I’d known these people for years. It was so refreshing to see other teenagers my age talk so openly with a group of “strangers” without the fear of being judged. It was the kind of environment I wanted to live in everyday.

By the end, all I could do was smile, because I realized there are good-hearted people in the world. We just need to put our minds and leadership abilities together to set an example for what our generation should aspire to be, a society where we are accepting of others’ differences.