By Livia Soong
A national dialogue on school bullying has been reignited with the recently release documentary “Bully,” Lee Hirsch’s moving and troubling film about the misery some children inflict upon others.
Sure, the Weinstein Company film doesn’t say anything that hasn’t been talked about before and there is a debate on whether it’s an award-winning documentary or an extended public-service announcement.
Despite personal feelings about the documentary, the national issue seems to persist and remedial action doesn’t seem to be working.
The $1.1 million documentary is pertinent to everyone, especially to the Asian-American community because studies have shown they are some of the most bullied in U.S. schools.
For example, a couple months ago, a YouTube video of a 17-year-old Asian student being viciously beaten by a group of Chicago teens went viral on the Internet. The graphic video shows the seven teens kicking and choking the student while yelling racial slurs. Throughout the duration of the attack, the victim pleads for mercy from the mob.
The question then becomes ‘why?’ Why are Asian Americans targeted as easy victims to bullies? What makes us so vulnerable to both physical and psychological attack?
Being an American-born Chinese (ABC) and growing up in a predominately white community, I’ve seen Asians targeted and victimized time and time again. Is it because we look and dress different? Perhaps, it’s because some speak with accents and some of our names aren’t westernized. Is it because we eat different foods or maybe because we’re simply too nerdy for your liking?
When confronted by bullies, we don’t necessarily breakout into Bruce Lee mode and fight back. Some may argue that we assume the position of a doormat and let the bullies walk all over us in the hopes that if we don’t do anything to draw further attention to ourselves they’ll stop.
Of course, this backfires. One, someone who doesn’t stand up for against bullies is immediately labeled as an easy target for return bullying. Two, as a bully victim, the emotional effects translate into future feelings of ineptitude and lack of confidence.
It’s our differences that make us easy to pick on. Perhaps being raised in America with a different cultural backdrop makes it easier for bullies to alienate us from our “more westernized” peers. And perhaps our vulnerability to attack can be found in the way we were raised.
Let’s not assume that all Asians know some form of Tae-Kwon-Do or Karate or Jujitsu. I, for one, was raised to rise above violence and find other ways to resolve conflict but even that looks more and more like a double-sided coin. On one hand, walking away is being the bigger person, but on the other, it can be misconstrued as being a coward.
Though there’s no doubt bullying has both its short- and long-term adverse effects on the Asian-American youth, there is some light at the end of the tunnel.
Admission records have shown that there is a disproportionate number of Asian Americans excelling in schools and going on to attend some of the best colleges and universities our nation has to offer. And if there is one thing we should take away here it is that life goes on long after high-school bullying has become a blur in our rearview mirror.
Right now, there isn’t an insta-fix to eradicate bullying from the face of the earth. Nonetheless, when it happens we should remember to not let those moments define us. Life is much more than a string of “give me your lunch money” moments of your yester years.
After all, at the end of the day, it’s not about how you were pushed down— it’s about how you got up. So get up!
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