Greenhill School Photo Project Combats Subtle Racism, Sexism and Other "Microaggressions"

Greenhill School Photo Project Combats Subtle Racism, Sexism and Other "Microaggressions"
Courtesy of Ariana Zhang

At an age when most of us were preoccupied with hot-boxing our parents' cars or eating Crayons (you ate crayons in high school too, right?!), the teenagers at Greenhill School in Addison are making us all look like slackers.

"I kind of got into the whole social justice scene during sophomore year," says Ariana Zhang, the Greenhill senior who photographed the "Dear Greenhill" photography project about campus discrimination that's been making waves online.

Zhang's photos document a problem within the prestigious private school that she describes as "microaggression," a term that means "unintended discrimination." It's commonly used to describe a kind of snide, passive aggressive prejudice, though some of the students appear to be experiencing just regular old racism, judging by the signs they're holding in Zhang's photo series.

"Dear Greenhill: DON'T ask me if they got my dad after every successful drone strike," says one teenager's sign.

The push to address the discrimination came in part from the school itself. Greenhill's director of equity and inclusion (yes, Greenhill is a private school) Karen Bradberry had been working with the senior class president to fight the microaggressions, Zhang says, and it was at an assembly for seniors where the students made their "Dear Greenhill" signs discussing discrimination they experienced. Zhang decided to document the signs with her camera and post the photos publicly, a decision that the school has been "extremely supportive" of, she says.

She can't name a specific group that's been targeted especially hard by discrimination on campus -- she says no group or person appears to have been singled out. In Zhang's own experience, she found that being a feminist has made both her male and female classmates look down on her.

"There have been experiences of mine where the word 'feminist' has come across as a bra-burning radical, and I just needed to express that I am not that," she says. "I think the word has connotations that just turn people off and makes them slightly intimidated, when the idea of feminism is not female domination but rather equality across all genders."

Send your story tips to the author, Amy Silverstein.


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