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Teen activist Marley Dias defends Greta Thunberg: ‘I get hate like that sometimes’

Teen activist Marley Dias characterized Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin’s recent flippant dismissal of 17-year-old Greta Thunberg’s climate change activism as “hate.”

“I get, you know, hate like that sometimes,” she told Yahoo Finance, “but I think we are all trying our best to be prepared and come into these situations with adults not saying that we’re better than them, and trying to learn from them.”

At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland last month, Mnuchin put Thunberg on blast. “After she goes and studies economics in college she can come back and explain that to us,” he said in response to a question about whether Thunberg’s call for public and private sector divestment from fossil fuels poses a threat to economic growth. 

GRAUBüNDEN CANTON, DAVOS, SWITZERLAND - 2020/01/24: Steven Mnuchin, United States secretary of the treasury, addresses a panel during the World Economic Forum in Davos. (Photo by Thierry Falise/LightRocket via Getty Images)

“I don’t think that she deserves to be talked [about] that way, especially to young people, because she’s still, at the end of the day, is just a girl and she’s trying her best and she’s very smart,” said Dias. “I think if we gain more mutual respect, between adults and kids, comments like that can just stop happening.”

Dias, 15, has gained national recognition for her passionate advocacy for diversity in literature. She spoke at the White House’s United State of Women Summit in 2016; she was recognized as one of “30 under 30” in media by Forbes in 2018;  and she started the #1000blackgirlbooks movement at age 10. 

Over the past five years Dias has been collecting thousands of books in which black girls are the main character and not simply a minor or background character, and has donated those books to black girls.

Marley Dias arrives at the 2016 Variety Power of Women luncheon on Friday, Oct. 14, 2016 in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

Dias’s mission was born out of frustration with her school’s book selection. “[My mother and I] had a conversation over pancakes at our local diner, and she was saying what do you want to change about the new year, going into sixth grade. And I was telling her that I was frustrated because I kept reading about white boys and their dogs,” she said. “As much as I love to read and I was an avid reader, I wanted to see myself. And I knew from my parents having a very diverse library that there...were stories that existed that looked like me, but they just weren’t in my school and I wanted to bridge that gap.”

The type of diversity Dias is advocating would mean that everyone would be reflected in school literature selections. “It wasn’t necessarily about pushing out the stories of other people and their experiences, but bringing in other stories, especially mine to the table,” she said.

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