The ages-old problem of bullying has been getting a lot of necessary press coverage in recent years. Authorities are finally admitting that the bullies and the bullied suffer severe psychological distress for various reasons surrounding this social ill.
Today is “Unity Day”–a day of bullying awareness. We find “conventional” bullying of people who are thought of as somehow different than others. The victims might be of a different race, ethnicity, religion, sexuality, disability, or possess any quality that appears outside the norm of a particular group.
We usually think of bullying as the verbal and physical abuse that children inflict upon other children at schools. While this image is true, it is not the only bullying that is worrisome. Wholesale bullying of certain children, adolescents, and adults is on the rise across the United States. There has been a major up-tick in the numbers of severe violent attacks and killings of transgender people and LGBT people in general.
While enlightened celebrities have been raising awareness of bullying in the media, a small, yet powerful clique of authority figures have been voicing strong, negative opinions about minority subcultures. We are witnessing more numerous and more violent attacks and murders against minority status individuals as an indirect result. Authority figures at the highest levels give only lip-service about the problem, yet continue to wink at individuals who choose to harm minority communities. In certain circles, bullying is not a bug, but a feature.
As someone who endured bullying throughout my school-years, I recognize bullying and can spot a bully when one appears in my life. It’s tempting to form a caricature about bullies, but I know the harm of stereotyping. Apparently, many bullies are the product of dysfunctional families and may be the victims of violence or neglect at home. In the same vein, victims of bullies may also be the victims of violence and neglect at home, too.
Regardless of the causes of bullying, it shows up in schools, workplaces, religious institutions, politics, and elsewhere. Bullying attitudes enable hate speech and the many forms of discrimination in society. Bullies look for validation of their actions and speech from public authority figures like politicians, clergy, and popular entertainers.
Bullying is damaging people’s psyches, and killing many. Being different is killing our children and minorities. The bullied and the bullies are dying or dead to compassion inside. They are all in severe pain. The immediate focus, however, must remain on the kids and adults who are being bullied.
“The solution to putting an end to bullying is to stop it at the source but also to find out what is causing the person to behave the way that they do.”–actress, Hunter King
Regardless of whatever the root causes of bullying might be, bullying should be discouraged in every instance. While comforting platitudes can be uttered to the victims, the sayings are only band-aid solutions to the serious psychological and physical harm that bullying causes. Our words are helpful, but they’re not enough. Advocacy for bullied victims is a start. The hard work involves addressing the root causes of verbal and physical abuse.
We can say “no” to bullying, but that is only a beginning.