Racially motivated bullying is an alarming issue that significantly impacts students and the overall school climate of schools. It is a pervasive and growing problem, undermining learning and creating an unfavorable atmosphere in schools. However, there is a reason for hope. Scholars and practitioners have developed evidence-based solutions for implementation in schools and districts to address this issue effectively. In this blog post, we will explore these solutions and discuss their implementation, offering a pathway towards creating safer and more inclusive environments for all students. To truly combat this issue, we must also delve into the intersectionality of anti-Black racism and bullying, recognizing that by addressing anti-Black bullying, we can foster an inclusive environment that benefits all students through offering actionable insights on how educators, youth, and communities can actively resist and dismantle these harmful systems.
Evidence-based solutions are available to address this issue effectively –whether you’re a teacher, school counselor, administrator, or other professional serving students. By imagining classrooms that center Blackness, promote freedom, and celebrate diverse experiences, we can reimagine education that dismantles anti-Black racism and bullying. Through the practices of radical love and imagination, we provide concrete steps to combat and disrupt these oppressive forces.
Anti-Black racism and bullying are intertwined with racial discrimination often fueling bullying behaviors. Data reveals alarming statistics on racially-motivated bullying, showcasing the urgency of the issue. According to a report by the National Center for Education Statistics, during the 2018-2019 school year in the United States, approximately 15% of students aged 12 to 18 reported being bullied based on their race or ethnicity. In recent years, several heartbreaking incidents have shed light on the persistent issues of anti-Black racism and bullying. From the tragic loss of Isabella Tichenor to the disturbing video involving Nya Sigin, these events have sparked outrage and a renewed commitment to creating safer and more inclusive schools. The connection between anti-Black racism and bullying is undeniable, with racial differences often used as a basis for discriminatory behavior.
It is important to note that bullies aren’t always students. According to the data, certain groups of students are being bullied and silenced by adults (Kaminski 2020). For example, at Buchholz High School in Gainesville, FL, Robert Cecil, a ninth and tenth grade English language arts teacher, was recorded on camera arguing with Black youth about the “accurate” usage of the N-word. Cecil exclaims, “If you’re Black you say the n-word that ends in “a”, but you don’t say the n-word that ends in “er”. After outrage from the students, Cecil posed the following questions to the class, “It’s a free country, freedom of speech, right?” In New Mexico, an 11-year-old Black girl was slammed to the ground by a school resource officer for taking extra milk from the school cafeteria. Other examples of bullying from teachers include: belittling or intimidating a student, embarrassing or shaming a student in front of peers, using racial or religious slurs or other forms of belittling a student based upon their gender, race, religion, or sexual orientation, and sarcastic comments or jokes about a student.
Understanding Bullying and Its Link to Anti-Black Racism
Bullying that is characterized by intentional aggression and an imbalance of power takes various forms such as physical violence, verbal abuse, social exclusion, and cyberbullying. It is vital to recognize that bullying can affect individuals from different racial, cultural, ethnic, gendered, linguistic, and religious backgrounds. However, anti-Black racism exacerbates the vulnerability of Black children and youth to bullying and exclusion. When racial differences are used as a basis for bullying, a culture of hostility and inequities emerges, making such behaviors more likely to occur. A study conducted by the Southern Poverty Law Center found that in the year following the 2016 U.S. presidential election, there was a significant increase in incidents of bullying and harassment in schools with 90% of educators reporting a negative impact on students’ well-being. Racially motivated bullying was among the prominent types reported. For instance, being the only Black student in a predominantly white school can increase the likelihood of being singled out and targeted. Racial slurs and hate speech further contribute to a hostile environment conducive to bullying, leaving lasting emotional and psychological impacts on victims. Understanding the intersectionality of anti-Black racism with other forms of oppression, such as sexism, ableism, and classism, is crucial to comprehending the discrimination and marginalization experienced by Black individuals.
The Power of Solutions and Efforts to Combat Anti-Black Racism and Bullying
To combat anti-Black racism and bullying, it is essential to actively challenge and dismantle systemic barriers, promote equity, and advocate for social and policy changes that address racial inequalities. Now that we have assessed the problem, it is important that we shift our focus to actionable solutions. By implementing the following strategies, we can actively work towards eradicating anti-Black racism and bullying. Key strategies and solutions include:
- Fostering a Culture of Radical Love
By cultivating a culture of radical love rooted in empathy, respect, acceptance, and imagination, schools can create safe and nurturing environments that actively work towards preventing bullying and promoting the well-being of all students. Radical love involves building positive relationships, teaching empathy and emotional intelligence, encouraging upstander behavior, and promoting diversity and inclusion.
- Embracing the Power of Radical Imagination
The radical imagination serves as a catalyst for envisioning transformative infrastructures that pave the way for a more equitable future. Educators must engage in praxis that dismantles dehumanizing systems and actively works to change the current conditions in schools. By imagining classrooms that center Blackness, promote freedom, and celebrate diverse experiences, we can reimagine education that dismantles anti-Black racism and bullying.
- Education and Awareness
Promoting education and raising awareness about the historical context, experiences, and contributions of the Black community is vital. This includes incorporating comprehensive anti-racism and bullying prevention curricula in schools, colleges, and community organizations. By fostering understanding and empathy, we can counter prejudice and ignorance.
- Empowering Communities
Providing resources, support, and safe spaces for individuals and communities affected by anti-Black racism and bullying is crucial. This involves establishing community centers, counseling services, and helplines specifically tailored to address these issues. Encouraging Black leaders, activists, and educators to share their stories and insights can also empower communities to take action.
- Strengthening Policies and Legislation
Advocating for robust policies and legislation against racism and bullying is essential for creating lasting change. This includes pushing for stricter consequences for perpetrators, implementing reporting mechanisms, and fostering a zero-tolerance approach in schools, workplaces, and public spaces. By holding individuals and institutions accountable, we can create safer environments for everyone.
What Does Technology Have to Do with It?
In the digital age, technology plays a significant role in facilitating bullying behaviors. Cyberbullying, online harassment, and the spread of hateful content have become prevalent issues. We must address them by:
- Promoting Digital Literacy
Educating individuals, particularly young people, about responsible online behavior, digital citizenship, and the consequences of cyberbullying is crucial. Teaching empathy and encouraging positive online engagement can help mitigate the negative impact of technology.
- Collaboration with Technology Companies
Working in collaboration with technology companies, social media platforms, and online communities is essential. Encouraging the development and implementation of effective moderation tools, reporting systems, and algorithms that detect and prevent racist and bullying content is paramount.
Combating anti-Black racism and bullying requires a collective effort grounded in radical love and imagination. By implementing the suggested strategies, we can create schools and communities where every individual feels safe, valued, and supported. Let us harness the power of radical love and imagination to challenge oppressive systems, dismantle barriers, and pave the way for a future free from racism, sexism, and violence. Together, let us create an inclusive and just society for a stronger call to action.
Organizations and Hotlines:
- National Bullying Prevention Center: A comprehensive resource for bullying prevention, offering educational materials, tips, and support for parents, educators, and students. Website: https://www.pacer.org/bullying/
- gov: A U.S. government website with information on bullying prevention, including warning signs, prevention strategies, and resources for different age groups. Website: https://www.stopbullying.gov/
- Anti-Defamation League (ADL): An organization dedicated to combating hate and discrimination, providing resources, educational programs, and advocacy to address bullying and prejudice. Website: https://www.adl.org/
- Anti-Bullying Week 2021: One Kind Word: This video shows how students activated their voices to speak back to and against bullying through creating a school film called One Kind Word. Website: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SmgiR5s0cHU
Online Resources and Campaigns:
- Teaching Tolerance: A website providing resources, lesson plans, and activities for educators to promote anti-bullying, diversity, and inclusivity. Website: https://www.tolerance.org/
- It Gets Better Project: A movement and online community offering support, resources, and stories to empower and uplift LGBTQ+ youth facing bullying. Website: https://itgetsbetter.org/
- UNESCO’s Anti-Bullying Campaign: An international campaign promoting awareness, prevention, and intervention strategies against bullying. Website: https://en.unesco.org/themes/bullying
In closing, I encourage you to reach out to local organizations, schools, or community centers that may have additional resources and programs available to support anti-bullying and anti-racism efforts in your specific region.
Kaminski, S. S. (2020, October 7). Bullying of Minority Students: Getting the Facts. Retrieved from https://education.fsu.edu/blog/bullying-minority-students-getting-facts
National Center for Education Statistics. (n.d.). Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2019. Retrieved from https://nces.ed.gov/programs/crimeindicators/crimeindicators2019
Southern Poverty Law Center. (n.d.). The Trump Effect: The Impact of the 2016 Presidential Election on Our Nation’s Schools. Retrieved from https://www.splcenter.org/20160413/trump-effect-impact-presidential-campaign-our-nations-schools
This blog post is prepared for the Western Educational Equity Assistance Center (WEEAC) at WestEd, which is authorized under Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and funded by the U.S. Department of Education. Equity Assistance Centers provide technical assistance and training to school districts, tribal, and state education agencies to promote equitable education resources and opportunities regardless of race, sex, national origin, or religion. The WEEAC at WestEd partners with Pacific Resources for Education and Learning and Attendance Works to assist Alaska, American Samoa, Arizona, California, Colorado, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, Hawaiʻi, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.
The contents of this blog post were developed under a grant from the Department of Education. However, the contents do not necessarily represent the policy of the Department of Education, and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal government.
WEEAC Anti-Bullying Video 1 – https://vimeo.com/853498455?share=copy
WEEAC Anti-Bullying Video 2 – https://vimeo.com/853548735?share=copy
WEEAC Anti-Bullying Video 3 – https://vimeo.com/853707051?share=copy
WEEAC Anti-Bullying Video 4 – https://vimeo.com/853782210?share=copy