If you haven’t been living under a rock in the past year, then hopefully you’ve heard of the efforts being made by media and celebrities to stop bullying. Most recently, FOX ran a few episodes dedicated to raising awareness of the effects of bullying. There is a powerful episode of Glee that aired last week that portrayed difficulties LGBT teenagers face in many communities. I personally have a handful of LGBT friends and the thought of them ever feeling unsupported to the point of considering taking their lives… well I would never, ever, ever want to think of that. I, for one, would always hope that I could stand with them in solidarity. We are better people. We need to take responsibility of what is going on.
But the threat of bullying is real. I’ve experienced it firsthand growing up. Unfortunately, I’m not convinced it’s anything that will ever go away. Not 100% anyways. We will never be able to control other people’s actions – whether it be hateful, inconsiderate, demeaning, degrading, ignorant or otherwise. So how do we strengthen ourselves? How do we come to a better understanding of what is going on and what should have zero tolerance?
I was raised to have thick skin. I don’t think my parents were ever concerned that I would have social problems in school. I think they had the idea that it was 100% academics and that they wanted to make sure I had equal opportunity with education so that I could have a successful future. At first, I thought that was going to be the case too. I was maybe 1 out of 10 Asian kids at my elementary school. Many of the hundreds of other kids had never even interacted with someone Asian until they met me. In kindergarten, there was no signs of racism or prejudice. I remember white girls were equally playful with me as they were to their Caucasian male counterparts. In fact, I think in grade school being different made me cuter. But that’s a different story.
My first experience with a bully was in 1st grade. It was actually another fellow minority – a Hispanic boy who at recess made it a point to tell me I was different. He used derogatory Chinese and Japanese slurs. Didn’t care that I was Vietnamese. I wasn’t raised confrontational, so I always just took it and walked away. And usually nobody knew enough about minority relations to want to stand up for me. After they realized making fun of my race wasn’t getting a reaction out of me, I feel into that group of nerdy/socially awkward boys that were made fun of for liking comic books over sports. Having nerd glasses didn’t help me either.
Stupid jerks. That’s what they were. The guys that teased me for my Power Ranger t-shirts or my bowl cut hairstyle. The ones that would knock the eyeglasses off my face. The guys that pushed me off the playground equipment and laugh at me covered in sand. Of course I did make friends – usually they would get picked on even worse because they dared to fight back. One of my friends got picked on all the way through high school because they could always rely on getting a laugh out of his reaction. Me, they got tired of me just walking away so they eventually stopped.
I remember some of my worst bulling was done by other minorities. You know why? Because they were being picked on too and they figured if they picked on someone of their own, it would make them feel higher and mightier. Whoop-de-do. Bullying happens folks, and I hope that each and every one of us in whatever capacity understands that we can make a difference by living by example and being better human beings.
In college, I continued to brush it off. Ignorant college boys (typically when drunk) would toss out the racial slur or phrase. Maybe it had to deal with fried rice or Chinese take-out jokes. I also took ownership of my own bullying by making fun of myself – in particular my often difficult to pronounce last name. This to me was slightly amusing because there seemed to be less of a desire to make fun of me if I made fun of myself. Still. Bullying doesn’t end in grade school. We just tend to have a bit stronger strategy with dealing with it.
My point is that there were many times in my life where I felt I stood alone. Nobody was going to stand next to me and defend me. And I grew up learning that I needed to be okay with that. But is that fair? What about people that may feel more sensitive about being different?Â After awhile, you get tired of it. You get tired of being different of being lonely and it can make you think very dark thoughts about your place in the world. I know sometimes we judge and we tell people that they can be over-exaggerating. But it is not our place to judge or lecture others on how they cope with being different. It is our place to be supportive and stand with them.
You don’t have to be one of to stand with. Some people have it better than others in this world. Could be money, beauty, intelligence, athleticism, family, friends – a many other things. I think it’s fair to say that everyone has their fair share of insecurities. I have many of my own. There tends to be two camps of thought:
- You need to be the president of your own fan club. I love this idea. You know yourself the best sometimes and you need to be okay with everything there is about you. Where I don’t like this idea is that I don’t always agree that you make the best decisions on your own. Sometimes you need that best friend that can be your voice of reason and I wish that every victim of bullying had those supporters.
- Surround yourself with like people or your greatest supporters. I tend to lean more towards this. People don’t have to understand what you’re going through to be there for you. Where this thought falls is that I feel we live in a selfish society. There aren’t enough people out there to drop what they do to support you. It just doesn’t work the way we would wish.
We deal with this everyday. You know, I often miss my college days because there was slightly more time for people to stop what they were doing to help a friend in need. When you’re a full adult outside of college, everyone has to be selfish to be productive in their lives. We consume ourselves with work, and need to relax a cool down. I’ve seen this personally. My parents get too consumed with another hard day at work that they don’t take time to ask me how I’m doing or they can’t read the signs that I was being picked on at school or I was feeling incredibly lonely or anti-social because I felt different. We have to take care of ourselves before we can take care of others – I get it. But what happens when all the time taking care of yourself – it becomes too late to take care of that other person that was in need? Or vice versa. I’ve seen plenty of times. What happens when all the time taking care of others, you fail to take care of yourself and it becomes too late?
Life doesn’t get any easier. We just need to get better. Get stronger. Are we prepared in our lives to deal with bullying and loneliness seriously? Is life ever too hard that we can take some time in our lives to stand with someone you know may be dealing with insecurities? How can we do a better job of reading the signs of depression? How can we help?
I am thankful I’ve been able to be strong enough to stand alone in times of strife. But I do not expect anyone else to have to stand alone. I don’t think it’s fair. I hope that we can grow into a more caring society where we learn that it’s a beautiful thing to stand with people that may be different. At the end of the day, we all wish to be loved and accepted. I hope we live to see the day when there is zero tolerance to bullying. Let’s make that promise to our future generation.