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.]


skim666 said...

further proof that "post-racial" is a fantasy to deny the actual problems that still exist! XO

Artificer said...

I think you are assuming that society at large identifies racism as bad/wrong. I disagree. I think lots of people are comfortable with racism. Our news media & company advertising perpetuate divisions amongst "we the people." My observations, of course, may differ from another's. Being half Caucasian (aka white American) & Korean, I understand first-hand the racism & misidentification that happens. And I believe it is worse for asians, as well as the fact that violence against asians is not as well recognized as violence against blacks, hispanics, & females. But I ask you, why do your blog posts focus more on the negatives & sufferings? You offer no respite. You offer no plan of action. There are no resources available on here. What is your intent? What will you do with the conversations you have cultivated? What happens next?

Jennifer said...


Let me try to address some of the things you raise in your comment.

1)I do think that society, at large, views racism as bad and wrong. However, I agree with you that people are very comfortable with racism. In other words, I think that there is both a public perception that racism is bad/wrong and that in public discourse people should not say or act in an overtly racist manner. However, I think that there is a large segment of society that is comfortable with various micro (and sometimes macro) aggressions that suggest that people continue to feel comfortable making assumptions about people based on race and judging people based on race (and acting on those judgments).

2) I don't agree that racism is worse against Asians in America. I would imagine that given your own background (which you disclose is half-Korean and half white) that you may have some very personal feelings for believing that it is worse for Asians. However, whether we could actually prove this or not seems to be beside the point (in other words, ranking oppression doesn't seem to be a productive thing to do, nor would it be productive to get into the Oppression Olympics). That violence against Asian Americans may not be as well recognized, I agree with--and there are historic and social reasons for this (too much to get into in this reply).

3) I could be wrong but your tone in the last few rhetorical questions seems to be one of frustration/defensiveness/some hostility. I'm not sure where it's coming from--and I don't know if you've actually read through all of the posts on my blog--I've been writing on and off for the last 4 years, so there's A LOT of things to read that include resources and about conversations--but I think the questions you raise deserve a longer answer, so I will answer them in a future blog post--thanks for writing!

Artificer said...

I kept reading (via mobile) until I felt compelled to write, & yes, my ending rhetoric came more from frustration with the social conversation of tolerance, yet no plans of action are enacted. I pose the same questions to others I meet in this kind of conversation. "Tolerance," my own experience with the word colors my perception, does not bring what I believe to be the necessary communal doctrine. "Acceptance" is what I think is necessary. I agree with you that it is too subjective to quantify violence against one ethnicity over another, & the pursuit of the worst offender/victim is ultimately frivolous in the grand scheme. Let me share with you a video sent to me via facebook that pretty much sums up my experience in an small farming community, where my high school had only 3 ethnic minorities (2 female, 1 male). I did not know hatred or racism before I moved & began at this school. In my life, I have been in only one fight 1-on-1. I am not particularly hateful to anyone, but I am a person who will use more than dialogue to communicate when the conversation changes in that direction. Plans of action are necessary. People in my high school community were aware of & talked about the abuse I suffered inside & outside the home, yet nothing was done. Plans of action are necessary. In the end, it was I who was called violent, ignorant, wrong, &, to add insult to injury, I was called a liar. It is not my effort to "punish" you through your blog with some kind of ranting & raving, or to diminish your intent. Instead, I am entering into your dialogue, the purpose of your site. http://m.youtube.com/#/watch?desktop_uri=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DybOebkAVGoQ&v=ybOebkAVGoQ&gl=US

Jennifer said...

Hi Artificer,

Thanks for wanting to have a dialogue with me and others in this blog space. I wasn't able to find the youtube clip that you linked to--nothing came up for me.

I'd like to ask you a question that could help in the dialogue you seek, namely, what kind of conversation do you want to have? In reading through your comment, what came across to me was that you have a lot of anger/resentment at the way you were treated growing up and that you have a lot of strong opinions about issues of race in the U.S.

So what is it that you are looking for? I'd certainly be happy to talk about issues of race--and in my opinion, having a space to talk about issues of race openly is an important thing in our country and is a productive means of creating common ground.

Artificer said...

Perhaps this link is better: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ybOebkAVGoQ&sns=em.

I am the product of two cultures. Neither accept the product of the union allowed be these two cultures. Instead, I am marginalized by both, & told it is the result of my own. However, when the full light of my experiences are shared with my closest friends (of various walks of life, ethnicities, occupations, education, & so on), they too begin to see the context of what I struggle against on a daily basis. Equally confused as I am, they admit that they most likely would/could not handle things as well as I do. Moreover, as a person who volunteers locally, contributes locally, law-abiding citizenship, tax-paying, full-time-working, mostly self-educated individual who seeks to befriend his neighbors & others around him is continually relegated to general forms of harassment & unacceptance ranging from mild to wild, how does one achieve accord with the community (& its members)? Perhaps an equally importantly inverse, how do I come to accept a community who may befriend me? Some individuals are pushed to the side, either directly or by inaction. What process is there to unite & close the gap? Perhaps our "ethnic structures" parallel our current socioeconomic gaps, & everything will have to be tipped over against the will of those in better position(s) to truly effect the equality you, I, & society at large seeks. I want a change in the core of society - the family structure - that is unrealistic, so that I do not have to feel the way I do. We all just want to feel safe & happy, & we are all pursuing that goal. My pursuit does not need to be lessened just because of my (mixed) ethnicity, or misidentified ethnicity, as people often mistaken me for hispanic/latino. I hope I said that right. Am I too difficult to understand? Let me know what further explanations you may want.

Jennifer said...

I agree that the goal of any truly open and democratic society should be to ensure that all people are treated equally--that all people deserve to live lives free from abuse where they can be safe and happy.

I'm very sorry that your experiences have been such that you have felt such hatred in your life. I don't mean this to be a Polly-anish comment, but I do know of mixed race people who, while having their own struggles, some based on race and others based on other factors, have found safe places and spaces where they are accepted. I guess what I'm saying is that I think there are places in this country where you might be more comfortable than where you currently are.

Of course, as the video you shared shows, there is violence everywhere--and people are targeted based on race or gender or sexuality everyday. In the case of the video, I did some investigating and while I do agree that it's an instance of a Chinese kid being targeted based on his Chinese-ness--the fact that most of his attackers are Chinese American complicates the dynamics of Asian bullying that you originally commented about--I blogged about this in my most recent post.

Anyway, thanks for coming by.

Julia Joy said...

This is horrible. I think the whole fear of all Muslims has become apart of many Americans' philosophies. Ignorance take on too many forms! Love ur blog!

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