Dear Soft Hearted Loves,
Okay so this blog post could go anywhere this week. The complexities of bullying?! Where do we begin? There’s so much we could discuss concerning bullying. For this I’m talking about the slights that injured you and this could be picking on someone’s shoes, parent, size, etc. For today I’d like to focus on bullying based on perceptions of a child looking different due to another child’s racism or xenophobia.
When I was young I was bullied daily and I wasn’t sure if it was strictly because of my size or something else. Later I learned that children can say hurtful things because you have different foods than they do or have caregivers that look different. For example, I grew up in a very White supremacist area where skinheads reside and didn’t think I experienced any “othering” by my peers as a child because I thought I looked White. I’m mixed Iranian and White. My experience is nothing like the overt stabs of racist comments, isolation, and abuses that friends with darker skin tones than I experienced. I continue to acknowledge and address my White privilege. I’ve also seen neo Nazis accost my parent after soccer practice, police call my parent a terrorist when pulling him over, and more. After further reflection I started to realize the environment I grew up in may have impacted the way children saw me and they may not have known why they were treating me with such daily unkindness and this othering.
I’ll never know whether they treated me differently because of how they were raised and what that told them about the foods I brought to school or the people they saw around me. I just know that people continue to report that they were treated with inequity, hurtfulness, and harm by peers who perceived them to be different. This othering and bullying certainly continues. The racism that people grow up with can stick with children and can be traumatically hurtful. As a healing provider I see the damages for folx. Not only does research indicate that children know about ethnicity, but data also shows that children’s self esteem is impacted by discrimination (from a study conducted in 2011 by Dulin-Keita, Hannon, Fernandez, and Cockerham, which can be found here https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3083924/).
I also get to witness life changing examples of parenting where children are exposed to a variety of people and views. I see how much they benefit from an open heart and broad exposure to various cultures, languages, skin tones, etc. Research even shows exposure to multiple ways of being in the world can help us be more creative (from a study conducted in 2019 by Tang, Wang, Guo, Zeng, Zhou, and Cao, which can be found here https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6499159/). There are so many ways that bullying and racism can injure, while we as the psychologists and healing providers know that the opposite (exposure to various backgrounds) is beneficial for everyone in several ways. That’s all for this week and I hope we can continue to discuss this important topic for weeks to come.