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Social Justice in Teen Group – 3 Inspired Stories

african american with friends photoENTER:

Teen group tonight 16 year old girl gets into how she told her *friend group* off for some racist remarks, risking her entire social status. Other kids in tonight’s group supported her and had similar stories. We applauded her courage in standing up for what is right.

Next, a girl says that her BFF was in mental hospital for depression when another friend called her several times to see how she was doing even after the girl expressly told her not to keep calling.  My client stood up to this person and said: “STOP!” Stop harrassing her while she’s trying to get help.  She felt brave and empowered as she did this.  She knew it might risk their relationship but she felt it was right.

When I was their age I think I knew right from wrong, and yet was I strong?  No.  I think I probably would back down from a fight.  I know I stood up for kids who got bullied.  I recall a girl named Ellie in my class who got bullied for being fat.  I befriended her.  She was smart and nice and kind.  I wonder what ever happened to her.

Another girl in the group said it happened to her once.  She was bullied in school for being the “dumb kid.”  She would typically walk away from it.  But it was sad and lonely for her and she felt helpless at the time.

It happened to me.  Throughout my career there have been subtle Jew jokes.  But the other day I agreed to take my day off to see a child in crisis.  She was 15 minutes late and I ended on time.  The father complained it wasn’t a full session.  I heard him say into the phone, “She’s Jewish and it’s not a holiday for her, so what’s a few more minutes…” Honestly, was that a jab, a slur, a micro-aggression, or nothing.  In any case, it did not feel good.

Now back to racism.  It’s got to start and stop somewhere.  If a teenager calls out her entire friend group on it then I’d say her parents must have done something right!  This is a kid who turned a bad situation into something possibly life-changing.  You can do it too.  Tell your kids to be fair and generous unless he or she is in danger.  (Then, run like hell).  However, teaching a child that his or her judgment is an invaluable tool for change is a very high level concept.  Most 16 year olds couldn’t do it.  Not only did it empower this kid but it helped her overcome her own inner fears.  If she could advocate against racism, maybe she could advocate for other things too.  She found her voice.  More important than, this-sounds-like-a-college-essay; this is real life.  You will always meet obstacles, but facing them with courage and equanimity, now that’s awesome.

Did you know that hate crimes are rising?

  • The six most frequently targeted groups in 2016, according to the FBI, were African-Americans; lesbians, gays and bisexuals; whites; Jews; Latinos; and Muslims. Race continued to be the most common category, comprising 57 percent of all hate crimes. Although African-Americans remained the most targeted group, they were at their lowest proportion of all hate crimes since 1992.

MORAL: Gives you a bit of hope when a kid overcomes crippling insecurity in order to prove a point about social justice, and felt terrified, then did it anyway.

Group social work can be more than just sharing and venting.  Our group process revealed her profound learning that when people take risks, change happens.

Social Justice in Teen Group – 3 Inspired Stories

Donna C. Moss

You can learn more about Donna's work at her personal website.

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APA Reference
Moss, D. (2019). Social Justice in Teen Group – 3 Inspired Stories. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 26, 2019, from


Last updated: 12 Jan 2019
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