Yesterday, we celebrated the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. Most of us rest content in the fact that we may be sometimes biased but we are by no means prejudiced or racist. It’s easy to point at fringe groups and label them. However, it is much harder to put the magnifying glass on ourselves and expose the dark ugly covert discrimination we allow to happen daily. Yet, because it doesn’t resemble what is blatantly prejudiced or racist, we don’t consider it wrong.
Bullying, particularly cyber bullying, is on the rise. I am amazed at how often parents are aware and most times participants in their child cyber bullying another child. Bullying is discrimination. Why do people bully other people? Because they do not act the way they do, they look different, they come from the wrong side of the tracks, they aren’t wealthy, they aren’t pretty, they are geeks. One would think, that after Columbine, Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois University parents would be the first line of defense in stopping bullying by their children in any form. Unfortunately, they are usually active participants and the fiercest proponents of their child’s innocence.
Parents excuse toddlers from biting other kids. I hear friends, new parents, tell tales of their child being bitten in daycare and the parent of the biter refusing to apologize. I was raised to be nice to all people, particularly those that no one wants to befriend. Not that I had to be everyone’s friend, but I was not allowed to be mean to other kids just because they were different. In grammar school, there was a girl that stinked to high heaven. She wasn’t ugly but it was more than obvious that although her uniform clothes were clean, a bath had eluded her for weeks. Some kids began making fun of her. I did also but not publicly, only in my circle. Unbeknownst to me, my teacher heard it and called my mother. The teacher told my mom that she expected that behavior from the other kids, but was shocked to see me exhibit that behavior. I was in big trouble when I arrived home. My mother made it understood that I was never to belittle or make fun of anyway due to their circumstances or clothing. She said you have no idea what is happening in their home life and but for God’s grace, the same thing could befall me so I should learn to be thankful and humble particularly around those less fortunate. For a week, my mom invited that girl over as my playmate. I learned my lesson. I may not like or love everyone, but I’d better respect them as a fellow human being.
A friend relayed a story of a junior high student that attended a very prestigious and expensive private school. He was being bullied by other boys. The boys that bullied him were from prominent families. The bullying was so bad that they urinated on him in the bathroom. When his parents confronted that principal (the bullying boys’ parents refused to attend), the principal said it was boys just being boys. What?! I don’t recall boys exhibiting that sort of behavior when I grew up. Sounds more sociopath to me. The principal continued that there was no need to make a ruckus and mare their school records over “boys being boys.” Mean girls and bullying boys are glorified in television and movies – that is until it leads to injury or harm then all claim innocence about the consequences of their behavior.
My nephew was a gymnast. I overheard one parent tell her daughter, “she thinks she’s better than you, she’s only good because she’s Asian.” Excuse me. Parents behaving badly at youth sporting events seems the norm – parents fight each other or the coach feeling their precious child was not given proper time to showcase their talent. No matter if I failed or succeeded, my mother always told me: “Ronda, there will always be someone better, brighter, smarter, prettier – you just do your best and respect other people.” That advice has served me well. Instead, we are raising monsters who feel it is okay to humiliate, berate or disassociate from those they deem not worthy of their acquaintance. I don’t have to like or love you, but I can show a modicum of decency. Saying good morning, good evening, good night to a person I pass on the street or in the hall is plain common courtesy, not reserved for only those I deem worthy.
Bullying is discrimination. It doesn’t seem as bad as overt racial/sexist discrimination. It’s like the white lie we tell ourselves is okay. When you treat people differently because they are not your social standing, wealth, ability, race, or aptitude – you are discriminating against them. I noticed that some states are going after parents who are assisting their children in cyber bullying other teens; you would think the parents would prevent such behavior to begin with. Unfortunately, as my dad would say, “there you go thinking” – because most people don’t like to think, means they have change themselves.