“That’s so savage,” said one of our teen boys during a conversation in our clubhouse kitchen. He meant, “That’s so awesome, so hardcore.”
But to another of our youth, who is an enrolled member of the Klamath Tribes, the expression was offensive. She heard “savage” as derogatory and racist, a term from colonization.
“No, that is not okay to say,” she said with conviction.
It was an “ah-ha moment” for a white youth. And it was an opportunity for a Native American youth to practice our Core Asset of Belonging: I understand who I am, have a place where I feel accepted, and know that my contributions count.
Notably, this young girl has learned, through conversation with her Friend, to extend the dignity she demands to another marginalized group: the LGBTQ community. In fact, she has even intervened in classroom bullying of “out” peers — even at the cost of classmates she once called friends.