Why We’re Losing Ground in Bullying Prevention
I’ve been writing this blog article for about a week, now, in my mind. Each time I thought I was ready move it from my mind to my fingers and onto my keyboard, that voice inside me would say “wait! not yet”. Normally, I hate when that happens. That usually signals to onset of another bout of Writer’s Block, every journalist’s nemesis at one point or another. This time, however, I’m glad that voice was there to annoy me. I wasn’t ready to commit this to the blog just yet. Now, I am.
Hopefully, I’m not breaking any news by saying that October is Bullying Prevention Awareness Month. Well, every month needs to be Bullying Prevention Awareness Month. However, October is the “official” month of recognition. How fitting. What’s been eating at me for the past week is the realization that preventing bullying is far more arduous than I ever imagined. In the good ol’ days (late last year and early this year), the notion was it was as simple as educating the young people. Teaching them love and compassion, and teaching it by example. That didn’t last long. It quickly occurred to me that the teaching had to start with the adults: parents, authority figures, political leaders, religious leaders, even older siblings. What-or-whomever!!! It had to start there!! And, I still hold on to that one as being one of the keys. This week taught me even more than that: what I now realize is that the reason why it’s so hard to tackle the bullying issue is because it is firmly ingrained into who we are as a society! It’s how we live. It’s how we communicate. It’s become who we are. At this point in time, it almost feels that bullies are the majority…on one level or another. Here’s a look at the events from just this week that finally filled in the missing colors for me:
- The facebook blog page was inundated this past week by the story of was a case, out of California, of a 15-year-old football player brutally beating up a lesbian at his high school, fracturing her jaw with multiple blows to the face. There was talk of concussion. Outrage set in, and rightfully so. After all, this was a girl being savagely beaten by a boy. I have no tolerance for that whatsoever, for any circumstances. Allegedly, the boy attacked her for being lesbian. That was the initial report. Then, it wasn’t that at all. Then, the boy responded, saying that he “did not know it was a girl.” Of course, the LGBT community was up in arms. “What are you trying to say!!!??? Of course you knew she was a girl.” Everyone was screaming “hate crime”. According to “the girl’s team”, the local sheriff’s department was siding with the boy, sweeping it under the carpet, and threatening to side with the boy if the girl decided to press charges. The way it was presented, of course, gave the impression that even they were trying to get the boy off with nothing more than a wrist slap. And, perhaps they were. This story is still unfolding, which is why the names haven’t been mentioned. There was a page set up on facebook in the girl’s defense, seeking action. Until it was taken down, just over 24 hours after it went up, I monitored it closely, paying close attention to what was being said, and by whom. Who actually witnessed it? Who is just speculating? Who is just stirring shit!? As the story was going viral on facebook, I sat in vigilance monitoring the page. And, it was here that it dawned on me that bullying is deeply ingrained into our collective psyche. It’s who we have become: a society of bullies. The way these young people were talking to each other was nothing short of appalling. In some cases, it was outright frightening, if not illegal. The alleged attacker was now receiving severe threats of bodily harm, and even death threats!, right there before my eyes. I only wish, now, that I had “screen-saved” some of this. At once, the bully became the bullied. It got so severe that I began to worry about him, as well. “Will someone try to kill him?” “Will the weight of the verbal assault from all around the country, from people he didn’t even know!, in addition to the attacks from “the girl’s team” prove to be too much for him to handle and he resorts to attempting to end his life?” See, what happens quickly is when one side doesn’t agree with the other, instantaneously the verbal abuse begins. It starts with name-calling. It escalates quickly from there. And, what made all of this even worse? Not all of the attackers on this page were teens!!!!! There were adults, both close to the situation and total strangers from different parts of the country, who were just as bad if not worst than some of the teens who were there. So, the already enraged and impassioned teens are now having their bullying, abusive behavior validated by adults. The education, and the bullying, continues;
- Someone took the time to read back through some of my older blog posts. Apparently, the one I wrote about Lawrence King’s murderer, Brandon McInerney, and his sentencing caught his attention. I was hard on Brandon for murdering the young, LGBT teen in cold blood. I was angry because, in my mind, and in the mind of many (if not most in the LGBT community), this young “monster” killed Lawrence strictly out of hatred for gays. Lawrence had “hit on” Brandon; Brandon snapped; Lawrence is murdered. But, wait. This guy who went back through my blog and read that post contacted me. And, to be 100% sure, this person was completely polite and respectful in his email to me. However, he challenged me to look closer at the whole case. Did Brandon murder Lawrence out of homophobic bigotry? Or, was Brandon, himself, a victim of bullying (from Lawrence), himself. And, like many of you are probably doing at this very moment, I immediately scoffed at the idea. My first thought was “seriously, dude!?” But, he provided me a link to a facebook page that had been set up in Brandon’s behalf. (you’ll need to read through some of the threads) Now, granted, the person who set up the page was and is a homophobic bigot. He originally set it up praising Brandon for standing up against “the radical homosexual agenda”. The thought of that mentality, that it was completely okay for one teen to murder another in cold blood under the guise of “standing up to the radical homosexual agenda”, existing in this day and age had my blood boiling. Hesitantly, I continued on. Make no mistake: although the person who set the page up set it up for all the wrong reasons and with the exact wrong message, people came quickly to the page and let him know just how wrong he was. That made it easier for me to continue reading. The conversation became very interesting. And, extremely enlightening. I came away from it all with the changed opinion that, yes, there was a rush-to-judgement to vilify Brandon McInerney as this monster, homophobic, child murderer. Brandon McInerney was indeed, himself, a victim of bullying…and, worse. See, there are two people on that page of critical importance: one knew Brandon personally; one knew the whole family personally, Their insight goes far beyond whatever the sensationalists-driven media outlets would’ve ever reported. The story would’ve been much less potent had the entire picture been painted. Read it for yourself. I’m confident that you’ll come away with a different opinion. But, I digress. What made this page standout to me, other than the fact that I was able to really get some facts on what really happened, was the level of ugliness being posted as comments on this page. And, the ones doing the posting were….that’s right: adults. Grown adults wishing for this boy, still a teenager, to get anally raped regularly while in prison. Walk away with whatever opinion you may, as far as the case itself is concerned; however, to post such vile on a public forum about a teenager is beyond reprehension. How on Earth do were EVER hope to seriously make a dent in the bullying issue with adults displaying this kind of behavior? Easy answer: it won’t happen;
- Just yesterday, this video of Wisconsin newscaster Jennifer Livingston went viral. It went viral because it is a video of her response to someone, some adult male, sending her a very demeaning, condescending email (bullying) about her weight. He took the time to go into great detail of her responsibility to the community, especially to young girls, to…essentially…look more like Barbie. This was a man who didn’t know her personally, who very rarely even watched her segment on the news, but wanted to say hurtful things to her just for his own satisfaction. Very eloquently yet emphatically, her response to him was decisive and determined. Still, it wasn’t enough that this guy took time out of his day to attempt to demean Jennifer. There are people on the social networks, yes…adults, who have taken it even a step farther with their comments. And, once again, by virtue of his now well-publicized email, and by virtue of some of the irresponsible, and immature!, adult commentors, our youth are being taught that being mean, saying hurtful things, is completely okay. Bullying is okay;
- And, lastly, this video was posted just yesterday. It, thankfully, is a re-enactment of a bullying incident that really did happen in a middle school. In the video, it’s happening in the workplace. Therefore, it’s adults…in the video. And, the walk-away message for every young person who sees it is “why should I stop bullying if grown ups are doing it?” Indeed, that question is being asked every single day, all around this country, and around the world.
“Why should I stop calling him a faggot? The pastor calls them that?”
“Why should I show fat people any respect? My dad says that fat people are losers.”
And, there’s a long list of other examples that I’m sure you can add to that in your own head, from your own experiences. Here’s the point: we can forget about trying to stop these young people from bullying each other. Nevermind the fact that suicide is now the #1 cause of injury death, and many youth suicides are bully-related. Forget about the fact that bullying victims often end up with deep emotional scars from being bullied. It doesn’t even matter that, in some cases, the bully victim reacts by becoming a bully, themselves, thus perpetuating the cycle. It just doesn’t matter!!! It. Just. Doesn’t. And, it doesn’t because we, as adults, can’t figure out how to get out own act together, can’t figure amongst ourselves, our peers!, how to treat one another or talk to each other. It doesn’t matter because as long as we continue to teach the young, through our examples!, that it is ok, acceptable, and even expecting in some cases!, to demean others, to treat people with disrespect, to say and do hurtful things to others, to be intolerant and unaccepting of other people and their differences, we can continue to expect the bullying to continue and, probably, increase.
And, as the bullying continues to escalate, taught and condoned by adults!, the bully-related suicides will also continue to rise. We don’t have a handle on it at all. In fact, it’s headed in the wrong direction
Written by Ron Kemp
October 3, 2012 at 4:28 pm
Tagged with anti-bullying awareness, Brandon McInerney, Bullying, bullying prevention awareness month, E.O. Green School shooting, facebook story about 15-year-old football player beating up girl, Jennifer LIvingston story, Lawrence King
Subscribe to comments with RSS.