By Tan France
(About the author: Tan France is a Pakistani British American TV personality, fashion designer & author)
Growing up in the UK, I was ridiculed, taunted, and even beaten up for being Pakistani. Fast forward a few decades, and we continue to see bullying in schools, communities, and online not only in the United States but globally.
As a new parent, I am particularly concerned for our future. There is no place for bullying in our communities, especially bullying based on ethnicity, race, culture, religion, and background. Unfortunately, it’s become all too common to see bullying and discrimination based on these things separate and divide us when they should unite us. However, there is hope for the future.
This October marks another annual National Bullying Prevention Month. As we think about the ways we can reduce and prevent bullying in our communities, we know that Anti-Asian hate crimes, bullying, and harassment have skyrocketed in the last year and a half. Conspiracy theories about COVID-19, political leaders looking for a scapegoat, and rampant disinformation on social media platforms have now resulted in thousands of anti-Asian hate instances being reported. And we know that is an undercount. Unfortunately, these instances include bullying and harassment of young people. Act To Change found that 80 percent of Asian American youth experience bullying in-person or online, and cyberbullying against them surged during the pandemic.
In the past year, as part of my Homeroom x Tan series with the national anti-bullying nonprofit Act To Change, I’ve had the chance to visit 13 schools across the country to talk about bullying and racism. I heard from students themselves about the challenges they are facing — Asian American kids are being called “Covid-19,” cross-racial conflicts divide students, and students feel either too afraid to speak up or too helpless from witnessing inaction.
After my work in those classrooms, I have seen student leaders rising up and developing coalitions, faculty challenging their schools to change curriculum, and allies educating themselves and speaking up. These truly inspiring changes can happen everywhere, as long as we are willing to put in the work and empower those in need of empowerment.
Last Saturday, during National Bullying Prevention Month, Act To Change partnered with Hate Is A Virus and Stop AAPI Hate to put on the first Changemakers Summit. This summit worked to educate and inspire the next generation of youth leaders from Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) communities and empower them to live proudly in the fullness of their communities and to stand up for themselves and others when they are confronted with anti-AAPI bullying and discrimination.
But how can we do more? How can we go further in preventing bullying in our communities?
Well, for starters we must be vigilant of the increased targeting and attacks that Asian American youth will face. What can we do? For prevention, anyone can attend bystander intervention training. Educators and school professionals can check out Act To Change’s resources for Educational professionals. We can also teach our children that if they witness an instance of bullying they should notify a school leader, file a formal complaint with the school, and report the incident at StopAAPIHate.org, or even file a complaint at civilrights.justice.gov if the situation requires it.
While this work might seem daunting, it is absolutely necessary if we hope to achieve a world where we can coexist in harmony and put an end to bullying once and for all. Earlier, I said there was hope for the future. And I believe that. The hope for our future lies in the opportunities for us to educate our children on how to embrace one another, regardless of our differences, and appreciate what makes us similar as much as what makes us different.
Bullying doesn’t have to be a commonplace experience for children of any background.
As this National Bullying Prevention Month winds to a close, I challenge every parent, every leader, every teacher, and every person in a position of power to reflect on the ways that they can help end bullying in the AAPI community, especially after the year we’ve had. The things you will learn and achieve in the journey to end bullying will not only help AAPI children, but children of any background and the positive effects will reverberate throughout our communities changing one child’s life for the better, day after day, year after year.
To access more information and resources on bullying prevention and intervention, visit ActToChange.com.
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