We might think of bullying as mean girls and boys picking fights at school. Or maybe the drama unfolds in social venues – real-life and virtual.
More than 25 states now have anti-bullying laws, but not North Carolina. Some school districts have created zero-tolerance policies that apply to all disobedience, even self-defense.
Geraldine Alshamy and her group, Mary Magdalene Ministries, invites us to come up with solutions at the Wake Collaborative Against Bullying and Youth Violence, a free community breakfast. The event is set for 9 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 18, at Martin Street Baptist Church in Raleigh.
“We talk about peer-to-peer bullying, but we don’t talk about adults who bully – from the home to the school to the judicial system – where these children learn it,” Alshamy said. “We don’t talk about the dangers of bullying – the emotional and psychological damages that sometimes cause long-term problems.
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“It’s what feeds what I call the home-to-school-to-prison pipeline, which is real,” she continued. “It’s not just a figment of people’s imagination – and it is intentional.”
Alshamy defines bullying as intentionally doing harm to someone, causing that person to be embarrassed or hurt.
“Our nation is run with a bully spirit,” she said. “Bullying is everywhere, and we’re not going to get rid of it until we address bullying as a whole. They are principals, teachers, parents, security guards, police, lawyers and lawmakers, and others. We have to go at it from a lot of angles.”
Bullying has been part of our social, economic, political and cultural fabric since the Puritans bullied the Native Americans, and since Americans kidnapped Africans and bullied them into slavery, said the Rev. Cheryl Kirk-Duggans, a professor of divinity at Shaw University. She is the author of two books, “Theology and Violence” and “Misbegotten Anguish: The Theology and Ethics of Violence.”
“Bullying is not new to this country, but what has changed is access to social media. What did occur in (the) classroom or in the gym now goes viral,” said Kirk-Duggans, whose writing spawned more than 20 years of research and advocacy. “We need to be very clear about that; it’s part of our socio-cultural, economic and political DNA, and it’s a much bigger problem that we’ve not ever addressed.”
Perhaps, then, this is a teachable moment, despite missing the mark with laws and mandates that largely criminalize normal behavior. We can’t ignore the triggers of bullying and the consequences of youth violence, trauma, disillusionment and academic failure.
In addition to raising awareness, the forum aims to create and mobilize an anti-bullying task force modeled after the U.S. Office of Human Rights, and to identify resources and close gaps.
During the event, a video will premier that features Wake County alternative school students who recount their journey through the school-to-prison pipeline.
Shirley Tang got on board when she fought her own daughter’s “wrongful suspension.” Now, as founder of uCANcomplain, Inc., Tang helps others sound the alarm.
“No one knows about it unless the victim tells the story,” she said.
I can’t count the number of anti-bullying-campaign email alerts I’ve gotten in recent years. And I dare not try to recall each one I’ve written about.
What stands out this time is an intentional plan to define and attack bullying at its root – beyond kids and schools and below the surface of the school-to-prison pipeline.
“It’s like an onion – there are many layers to it,” Alshamy said. “Once you peel it back, you realize we’ve allowed it to go too far without speaking about it.
“The worst evil in the world is to not speak of the evil that you see and to not do anything about the evil that you see.”
Lori D. R. Wiggins writes about the people and places of Midtown Raleigh. Contact her via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.