Bullying is not a new topic. Kids have been bullied for generations and it needs to stop. There is no excuse for bullying. I believe kids are taught to bully. I don't believe they are taught to say hateful things, but I believe they see it from the adults around them.
Kids bully out of fear and insecurity. Fear of "other," which they have learned from their parents and other adults in their environment, as well as their friends and their friends' growing up environment. Kids also bully out of insecurity. They feel insecure about the unknown and someone being different. They are insecure because they fear and they fear because they're insecure. It is a vicious cycle.
Tonight, I am watching Anderson Cooper 360 and his program is about bullying. It is mostly focusing on the bullying toward homosexuals. Many of the people interviewed have been bullied by people who claim to be "christian." Obviously, this hits a cord with me. I think it is wrong to only focus on the bullying of one demographic group.
Bullying happens to ALL kids. Just ask them. Kids are young and naive and insecure and scared and they bully anyone. There is no one topic that leads to more bullying. Black, white, gay, straight, Christian, atheist, brunette, blond, big nose, small nose, fat, thin. Kids who are bullies will bully about anything.
I grew up in environments where people were bullied by word of mouth. They were insulted and rumors were spread about them. People at my school were bullied because they were too thin, some too fat, many for not having friends, some for being smart and excelling at school, some for dressing goth, some for dressing emo, and some, like me, were bullied because of their faith. Right now the media will tell you that it is the Christians who are spearheading the bullying and leading gay children to commit suicide. Christians get blamed for most things in this country.
In my own life, I was bullied because of my religion. I remember leaving Christian club during lunch one day in sixth grade and a group of eighth graders were sitting right outside the door. They didn't move and we had to navigate around their backpacks and legs and while walking by they taunted us for coming out of "Christian club," telling us how lame it was that we prayed and believed in God. I remember feeling nervous about their comments and uncomfortable and also mad. Mad that they were making fun of me. Mad that they even cared when it didn't hurt them that I prayed at lunch once a week. Later in high school, I was insulted because of my religion even more. My opinions weren't considered as valid because of my religious worldview. I was judged before I had a chance to speak. People assumed things about me and my beliefs without asking and then based their opinions on me by that. People insulted me, not only outside of class, but sometimes in class, because being a Christian and a conservative seemed to make it okay to insult me publicly. I had to work twice as hard to be heard and respected. So don't tell me that Christians are the root of the bullying problem. Ignorance, fear, and insecurity are to blame.
So how do we change this? Education.
We have to teach kids from early on in life that bullying is not okay. We have to teach that everyone is unique. Everyone has something to offer to the world. Everyone has a gift. We have to teach the value of differences. The value of hearing different opinions. The value of learning from the unknown. We have to teach engagement and acceptance of individuality. We have to teach that acceptance does not mean approval, but it does mean respecting and appreciating differences. Stopping bullying takes every person. We have to change how we teach, how we talk, and how we act, because kids will soak it all up and model it when we are not around. Like on the playground, in the classroom, on the bus, and online.
Only we can stop bullying and it is something that can be stopped.