Things That Matter

Greta Thunberg Was Forced To Apologize For Speaking Multiple Languages For A Political Misunderstanding

Most recently, 16-year-old Greta Thunberg has been making headlines as Time Magazine’s Person of the Year. But before she earned this prestigious title, Thunberg occupied the media spotlight for months as an audacious environmental activist from Sweden—a young person infuriated by previous generations’ negligence and lack of accountability for the current climate crisis, which is, sin duda, the most urgent crisis our generation will face in our lifetime.

Thunberg rose to fame late in 2018, when she began skipping class to rally outside the Swedish parliament, calling for stronger action on climate change and more radical environmental policy. This act of protest seemed to instigate similar demonstrations from teens in their own communities, eventually culminating in a widespread school climate strike movement that manifested in weekly multi-city protests. Since her immediate emergence, Thunberg has won numerous awards and even earned a 2019 Nobel Peace Price nomination.

Although Thunberg has been lauded by folks all over the world, inspiring people of all ages and nationalities, she has also received ample criticism from politicians and media, alike.

Most criticism has come from conservative world leaders, many of whom either refute the existence of climate change or simply don’t seem to consider it a serious issue. One of her greatest antagonists, perhaps unsurprisingly, is Donald Trump, who has published several tweets that overtly mock the teenager and minimize her activism efforts.

Like the time Trump shared a video of Thunberg angrily addressing world leaders, sarcastically jabbing at her frustration.

Or the time Trump said Thunberg had an “anger management” problem and needed to “chill.”

Thunberg, in a display of cleverness and class, temporarily changed her Twitter bio to reflect Trump’s December tweet, calling herself “a teenager working on her anger management problem.” The bio also stated that she was “currently chilling and watching a good old fashioned movie with a friend.” She did something similar when Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro said: “Greta said that the Indians were dying because they were trying to protect the Amazon. It is impressive how the press gives voice to such a brat.” In response to Bolsonaro’s comment, Thunberg changed her Twitter bio to a single word: “pirralha,” the Portuguese word for “brat.”

Unfortunately, Thunberg’s quick rise to fame has put a high level of pressure on the teenager. Now that she serves as an ambassador for climate activists everywhere—in addition to being the new face of a generation—Thunberg is closely watched by the media, and she has to be especially careful about what she says and writes.

In a speech at the Fridays for Future Strike in Turin Italy last week, Thunberg said that world politicians should be “put against the wall” for their lack of climate action.

“World leaders are still trying to run away from their responsibilities, but we have to make sure they cannot do that,” she said. “We will make sure that we put them against the wall, and they will have to do their job to protect our futures.”

In English, the phrase “put them against the wall” carries certain connotations—and those connotations are actually quite violent. “Put them against the wall” often refers to “death by firing squad,” something that used to be a relatively common form of capital punishment in the United States, though it is now federally outlawed. This form of execution was also carried out in a military context, and it involved a prisoner standing against a wall, typically blindfolded, while a group of soldiers shot them dead.

After Thunberg made her speech, social media was electric with comments that attacked her use of this phrase, accusing her of using violent rhetoric to further her agenda.

Thunberg also took to Twitter to clarify what she meant. In Swedish, her first language, the phrase “put them against the wall” does not carry the same connotations as it does in English. She apologized for her misuse of the phrase and reiterated that she did not at all mean for it to suggest violence or aggression.

Of course, Twitter overflowed with an abundance of supportive messages from people around the world, discouraging Thunberg from letting the critics get under her skin and applauding her ability to communicate so eloquently in multiple languages.

Latinos are no stranger to the ups and downs of bilingualism—things getting lost in translation, only being able to express an idea in a mezcla of vocabulary, not being able to find the right words in either language. But to those Americans who only speak English, bilingualism is like a superpower:

Regardless, Thunberg handled the backlash with poise, and it’s clear that she is ready to take on criticism from anyone—be they adults, world leaders, or strangers on social media.

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Latinas Share Why They Wanted To Teach Their Children Their Native Language


Latinas Share Why They Wanted To Teach Their Children Their Native Language

Stephen Dunn / Getty

In a world with so much rising intersectionality and access to language tools, many still feel that passing along the traditions of their languages is necessary. Studies have shown for decades that children who grow up in an environment where they’re exposed to different languages have a pathway ahead of them that is full of promise. Particularly when it comes to education and career opportunities.

But why else do some parents find it essential to teach their children their family’s native languages?

Recently, we asked Latinas why learning their native language is important to them.

Check out the answer below!

“So they can be a voice for others in their community .” –_saryna_

“Besides the fact that bilingual kids use more of their brains. I’d like to teach my baby my native language so they can feel closer to our roots and be able to communicate/connect with our community not just in the US, but in Latin America too.” –shidume

“So that when the opportunity arises they can pursue their endeavors with nothing holding them back!” –candymtz13

“It not only helps them be multilingual, but also reminded them of their ancestry. Their roots. It builds a certain connection that cannot be broken.”-yeimi_herc

“So they can communicate with their grandparents, so they have double the opportunities growing up so they know their roots. So many reasons.”

“Know where you came from, being bilingual for more job opportunities later, being able to communicate with family members.”- panabori25

“I don’t have children but I think a language is tied to the culture. For me Spanish is a direct representation of how romantic and dramatic and over the top in the most beautiful way latin culture is. Also I’m Dominican and we just blend and make up words which really represents how crazy my family is.” –karenmarie15

“If I don’t and they lose ties to their people meaning my family who only speaks Spanish and Italian than I myself am harming them. As a preschool teacher I always tell parents English will happen eventually that’s the universal language but teach them their home home language the one that grandma/pa and the rest of the family speaks. They lose their identity. Sure they make up their own eventually but they must never forget where they come from.” –ta_ta1009

“So he doesn’t lose the connection to his grandmother and great grandfather who only speak spanish. So if he ever hears someone struggling to communicate he can help and feel a sense of pride in his roots/culture. 🇸🇻 plus 🤞🤞 I want him to pick up a 3rd language too!” –cardcrafted

“To give them more opportunities in life. I feel that some stories can only be told with authenticity when they’re in their native language. If you have the opportunity to do so, please do.” –titanyashigh

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Michelle Obama Recalled A Moment When Chicago Cops Accusing Her Brother Of Stealing His Own Bike When He Was Just 10


Michelle Obama Recalled A Moment When Chicago Cops Accusing Her Brother Of Stealing His Own Bike When He Was Just 10

Paul Morigi / Getty

As most Black families in the United States know, growing up as a Black person is seen as a great threat in and of itself.

In a country where the rate of fatal police shootings among Black Americans is higher than that for any other ethnicity, it’s no wonder that this is true. Or, why learning to handle the police while Black is a lesson taught so prominently beneath the roofs of Black households.

In a recent episode of her podcast, Michelle Obama revealed that she and her brother Craig Robinson learned this lesson years ago in a confrontation with the police.

Speaking with her brother in her podcast, Obama recalled the day Robinson was accused of stealing his own bike.

Speaking with her brother, a former basketball coach, and her mother Marian Robinson about childhood and parenting, Obama brought up a moment in which Craig was stopped by a couple of police officers while riding his bike.

At the time, Robinson was about 10 or 11 years old and had been gifted the yellow ten-speed Goldblatt by his parents. While riding the bike, a police officer grabbed hold of it and refused to let go despite Craig’s pleas and protests that the bike was his.

“I was like ‘Oh, you got this all wrong, this is my bike. Don’t worry, this isn’t a stolen bike,’ and [the cop] would not believe me, and I was absolutely heartbroken. And I finally said to him, ‘Listen, you can take me to my house, and I will prove to you, this is my bike,” Robinson recalled.

Fortunately, Obama’s mother was home at the time and ushered Craig inside of the house, while she dealt with the police. As her son recalls, “she had that tight lip” as she confronted the officers who had accused her son of stealing his own bike.

Robinson revealed that she discovered the officers were friends with the people who had made the complaint about Craig stealing the bicycle and demanded they come to her house so that they could “admit [they] made a serious mistake.”

Robinson described the experience as a “heartbreaking” one at various times throughout the interview.

“I could tell [the cops] were trying to ask me questions that would trip me up,” he recalled. “If I wasn’t so sure that that bike was mine and showed any kind of reticence, I could see them taking me off to the police station, not calling mom until after I’ve been, you know, booked or whatever they do.”

At one point, Obama remarked that the story is particularly familiar with ones being experienced across the country, even today. “Nobody thinks about, you know, the fact that we all come from good families that are trying to teach values, but when you leave the safety of your home and go out into the street, where being Black is, is a crime in and of itself, we have all had to learn how to operate outside of our homes with a level of caution, and fear, because you never know,” she recalled

Obama’s mother also described the experience as being “part of a culture” among police.

“Because those two policemen were Black. And they were acting exactly the same as any other policeman,” her mother remarked. “It’s almost like, this is what they thought they were, how they were thought they were supposed to act.”

All three family members noted how the incident is so familiar today. Despite the fact that decades have passed. “That’s the perfect example of what all of these young, Black people are dealing with now, because this was, almost fifty years ago?” Craig Robinson said.

Listen to the clip from the podcast here.

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