NEW YORK CITY, New York—New Jersey parent Ms. Shehnaz Abdeljaber was shocked to find out her son’s classmates and a teacher suggested he was a terrorist.
She opened his middle school year book and saw the comments, then found out her son had been enduring such bullying for years and had kept silent.
Since then, she has pushed the school’s principal to support workshops on bullying that will include students and teachers.
“We need a more creative approach and more interaction with the youth, empowering them to do something rather than just going through the framework of authority,” Ms. Abdeljaber was quoted in Asian Week.
Ms. Abdeljaber was invited to share her story, along with students who had experienced bullying, at the White House Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Initiative Bullying Prevention Summit on 29 October 2011 in New York City.
At the summit, new data from the Department of Education (DOE) was released, revealing reportedly surprising statistics on bullying.
The data, increased exposure
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) labels a student as being bullied “when another student, or group of students, say or do nasty and unpleasant things to him or her. It is also bullying when a student is teased repeatedly in a way he or she doesn’t like.”
In 2009, the DOE conducted a survey on bullying, interviewing 6,500 students ages 12-18.
According to the survey, 54 percent Asian American students reported being bullied in their classrooms, whereas 31.3 percent White students, 38.4 percent Black students, and 34.3 percent Latino students reported experiencing this type of bullying.
Regarding online harassment, 62 percent Asian American teens reported experiencing bullying on the internet, compared to 18.1 percent White teens.
Language barriers could target Asian Americans for bullying, as well as heightened racial prejudice after the September 11, 2001 attacks largely attributed to Muslims, according to policymakers. Teens thought to be Muslim are bullied more.
“We’re seeing folks who somehow seem a little different from the norm bearing the brunt,” U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan was quoted in Agence France-Presse. “We’re trying to shine a huge spotlight on this.”
The Obama administration has been highlighting bullying since October 2010 when there was an increase in reported bullying against gay and lesbian teenagers, resulting in teen suicides.
However, there have been others involved in shining light on the bullying issue for a few years now.
Dissed-Respect: The Impact of Bullying
In 2006, Plattsburgh, New York based Mountain Lake PBS premiered the film Dissed Respect: The Impact of Bullying.
SUNY Plattsburgh Director for the Center of Diversity, Pluralism, and Inclusion (CDPI) Dr. J.W. Wiley worked as a consultant on the film, interviewing and holding conversations with children and young teens, as well as educators, to address reasons, consequences, and actions to take in resolving bullying.
Combining skits, poetry, and rap with research on bullying allowed for the film to include an audience of children and teens who are reportedly very susceptible to bullying.
The film considers two approaches for viewers: a student and a professional pathway.
In the student pathway, students explore aspects of bullying, while guided by peer voices and experiences, as well as professional input. The professional pathway allows educators to consider the impact that bullying has on their educational environment by truly listening to student and colleague voices, as well as various thoughts and theories.
“Most of us, probably all of us at some time, don’t see ourselves as bullies,” Dr. Wiley says in the film. “It’s hard for us to see that.”
Dr. Wiley told the Viễn Đông that everyone has bullied someone and been bullied in their lifetime, whether knowingly or unknowingly. This recognition is a step toward diminishing bullying.
“People always think it’s [bullying] a large kid getting in someone’s face and leveraging physical harm,” he told the Viễn Đông. “That’s the misnomer of bullying.”
Dr. Wiley added that bullying can be overt or covert. While overt bullying is the most commonly referenced, in the face type, covert bullying is not usually processed while it’s happening.
For example, if someone does not like someone else for any reason, they can use manipulation to get a group of people to not like that person also. The group can even cause harm to the person, while believing they are doing nothing wrong.
Organizations, like enforcement agencies, within U.S. dominant society have historically perpetuated this type of covert bullying against ethnic minorities through practices like racial profiling, Dr.Wiley told the Viễn Đông.
“I’d rather be physically punched in the face than metaphorically stabbed in the back,” he added.
When bullying escalates
On 19 August 2011, the Viễn Dông reported on the Orange County Human Relations (OCHR) Commission’s press conference presenting the 2010 Hate Crime Report, with featured panelists to comment on hate crime in OC.
Panelists shared that bullying can lead to hate crimes, which are crimes committed against someone with an actual or perceived difference in characteristics from the attacker.
Although hate crimes against Asian Americans reportedly decreased from 2009-2010, panelists said hate crimes could be underreported as Asian Americans are among ethnic groups who are quiet about the abuse they experience.
Such groups come from multigenerational histories of promoting and accepting silence as a means of survival in the United States.
Though bullying is not the same as a hate crime, it can lead to one. For more information regarding OCHR and hate crimes, visit www.ochumanrelations.org, call (714) 567-7470, or send mail or walk in to 1300 S. Grand Ave. Building B, Santa Ana, CA 92705.
To report a hate crime, call 1-888-No-2-Hate.