Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Bullying is NOT OK, esp. when you target an individual based on race/ethnicity/sexualitiy/gender

Recently a study came out that found that 54% of Asian American teens experienced bullying--this is compared to 31.3% of white teens and 38.4% of black teens and 34.3% of Latino teens. Cyberbullying is even more ramapant among Asian Americans, with a remarkable 62% of Asian American teens being targeted on-line compared with 18.1% of white teens.

Many of those bullied seemed to be targeted as "terrorists"--assumably because they are either identified as Muslim or Arab American or in the case of South Asians, potentially mis-identified, at least in terms of ethnic nationalism and religion (in the case of non-Muslim South Asian Americans).

This disturbing study comes out at the same time as a news piece about a soldier in Afghanistan, Chinese American Private Danny Chen, who was found in a guard tower with a bullet to his head. It's not clear whether it was self-induced (ie: suicide) or whether he was murdered (and it's unclear who might have murdered him). What is reported in the New York Times story is that Chen described being harassed in the Army, by fellow privates and his superiors, based on his racial and ethnic difference from them--bullied because he was Asian American.

I know I've written before about my admiration for the "It Gets Better" project and the stands that people are taking against bullying based on sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation.

Do we need a similar grass-roots movement for Asian American teens? To reassure them that it will "get better"--that the harassment and bullying that they are experiencing will cease or at least become more tolerable? Or should we, as a society, be trying to educate our youth (and our adults) that bullying someone based on their race or ethnicity--targeting Asian Americans because they are Asian Americans, is plain and simple racism. Making fun of Asian Americans because they may look different from white Americans, because they may speak with a non-American accent (we all speak with an accent--it just depends on how you choose to normalize it), about the differences in their values and what they eat--and my all time favorite, when people pull back their eyes to suggest a "slanted" look. These things are NOT OK -- THEY ARE EXAMPLES OF RACISM. And they are also never harmless. I think when we imagine a small child doing these things, we think, "Oh, these are just kids." But when mocking someone of another race goes unchecked, I think our entire society needs to be held responsible.

[Addendum--Dec. 13, 2011: I just found this article crossposted from Hyphen Magazine on the New American Media website--it's really a heart breaking article to read about a group of first-generation/immigrant teens who were repeatedly and violently targeted/bullied in the Philadelphia area. The Justice Department had to intervene and things are looking better, but it's really tragic that it had to come to THAT in order for Asian American youth to feel safe in their own schools.]

Friday, November 4, 2011

Help out a fellow blogger -- calling all African American women!

I'm posting this message from my dear blogging sister, Tami of What Tami Said -- although she specifically mentions African American women, I suspect that she'd be interested in hearing from black women around the world. Read on--and if you have any questions, please contact Tami at Tamara@BackTalkBook.com--you can also find the original post here.

The way our society talks about black women and marriage--from the daily paper to the pulpit to movies and self-help books--is flawed, sexist and damaging. When black women tell their own stories, a more thoughtful truth emerges.

I am working on a project juxtaposing the authentic experiences of African American women with the tragic common narrative about black women and marriage--a narrative that narrows lives, turns black female successes into failures and unfairly burdens us alone with responsibility for the success of black male/female relationships, black families and the black community. My goal is that my efforts will result in a published book.

I am currently working to identify black women to have frank discussions about how they navigate relationships, sexuality, singleness, marriage and divorce. If you, or someone you know, is willing to be a part of this effort, please contact me at Tamara@BackTalkBook.com.

Some things to know:

I am interested in interviewing black women of all ages, backgrounds, geographic locations and experiences. One goal of my effort is to illuminate the lives of women often erased in discussions of the black marriage rate, including married women, divorced women, women who don’t wish to marry, lesbian women, women in interracial relationships and others.

Subjects should be willing to participate in multiple one-on-one interviews both in person and through technology. Initial interviews will be conducted by phone in November. While I will not require an inordinate amount of time from interviewees, I will need to interact with them enough to understand their stories, experiences and perspectives.

Elements of participants' stories, including quotes, will be included in a published work, written by me. Women have the option of being referred to by their full, real names; first names only or a pseudonym.

Beyond the ABC specials, “think like a man” romantic advice tomes and panic-inducing women’s magazine articles, exist the real stories of black women—too often told from another perspective and voice. Everyone is talking about black women and marriage. I want to talk back.

Please help by responding to and sharing this call for participants through your networks. Please direct questions about this project to Tamara@BackTalkBook.com.