Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Question #3: "Why is Anti-Bullying Such a Political Football?"

October is national Bulling Awareness Month. To mark the occasion, we are preparing some answers to Frequently Asked Questions surrounding the issue of bullying. If you have a question that you would like us to answer, you can message us on Facebook.  We can’t answer every question individually, but we can try to get the “gist” of all of the questions and address the issues raised. If you missed the first two entries in the series, the links for them are right here:

 Q3 :Why is Anti-bullying Such a Political Football?

As a social strategy that depends on physical or social strength, there has always been the potential for bullying to have political over-tones. The targets of bullying are chosen because the bully believes that they are acceptable targets for unacceptable treatment. While some bullying happens because the bully has a personal problem with a single individual and justifies their treatment of their victim on those grounds, there is another dynamic where groups of people become viewed as fair game for anybody to mistreat.

In a local areas, children of racial, cultural, religious, economic, social status or sexual minorities can be at higher risk for bullying.  If the children in a neighborhood see that authority figures take an attitude that certain groups are undesirable or suspect, they are more likely to choose them as targets of bullying, less likely to become part of the support network for the victims, and the victims are more likely to internalize the message that they “deserve” this treatment and be unprepared to stand up for themselves.

Anti-bullying programs that  include the message that it is unacceptable to bully someone because they belong to a disadvantaged minority are sometimes accused of being part of a political agenda or strategy, because this issue intersects with other social justice issues.  Thus, political activists on both sides of the social issues are compelled to become involved in the discussion.

However, no anti-bullying educational program can be effective unless it includes material that makes it clear that it is unacceptable to bully anyone. If there are groups of people that are implicitly viewed as acceptable targets for mistreatment, an anti-bullying program must explicitly state that they are not acceptable targets for mistreatment in order to be effective.  Additionally, official policy and implementation of policy must be in line with that message.  Without these actions, an acceptable class of victims and a climate of “open season” can result.

The experience of Jamie Nabozny illustrates this phenomenon very clearly.


The right to believe whatever you believe, and speak to defend those beliefs, is very important. It is fundamental to all other rights. The right of human beings to be safe from malicious harm is also very important and fundamental to all other rights.  If you can't be secure in your person, you can't be secure in anything else.
The job for us as parents, educators, and peers of those affected by bullying is to understand, teach, and strive to model behavior that makes it clear:  you do no honor to your beliefs when you harm another person in their name, and that we do not believe that any sort of violence, harassment, or defamation is supported by appeals to belief or opinion.

No comments:

Post a Comment