As an anti-bullying youth advocate with The F.A.A.B Foundation (Fighting Against Abuse & Bullying), tackling the many causes and effects of bullying is already a daunting task. Speaking with youth across the country, many of the victims of bullying cite the “average” reasons for it: The victim is deemed “weird” or different. They are “overweight” or not “shapely” enough. Perhaps they are not as “attractive” or “financially favored” as other classmates. Over the last decade, cyber-bullying on various social media platforms has made it easier for bullies to attack their victims online, anonymously.
As a victim of bullying and abuse myself, I have made it a personal mission as a motivational speaker to provide encouragement, empowerment, and common sense solutions for children and parents to help tackle the causes and effects of bullying. However, there is one facet of bullying I was neither expecting nor was quite prepared for.
The Dawn of Post-Election Trumping
Since the November Elections, there has been a new wave of bullying sweeping the country; I call it “Trumping.” Unless you’ve been under a rock, you have noticed President-Elect Donald Trump has himself “bullied” his way into an election victory with the help of, in his own words, his “violent and vicious” supporters. We have seen the rallies in which Trump has demeaned and belittled marginalized minorities in this country, even encouraging his supporters to “do what is needed” to silence his opposition. No one was spared; Muslims, Mexican Immigrants, African Americans, the disabled, and even women were not free from the wrath of stereotyping anomalies and disgusting hateful rhetoric.
As if the rally cries of “throw them out!” “Punch him in the face!” and “Build the wall!” were not terrifying enough, post-election we have seen an increase in the number of children and youth who have become victims of this “Trumping.” The Southern Poverty Law Center conducted a survey of over 2000 teachers from K-12 who reported that since Trump’s election, cases of racial/religious-bullying have increased so exponentially, children of Mexican and Muslim backgrounds are expressing “fear and anxiety.” 40% of the teachers surveyed stated that they were hesitant to even teach about this Presidential election for fear that it may provoke bullies to target minority classmates.
Universities and colleges are not exempt, as an increase of hate crime activities towards African-Americans and Muslims have students on edge and on the defensive. Universities across the country are increasing campus safety and implementing “post-election” guidelines after incidents at the University of Oklahoma, the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Illinois involving targeted harassment or threats of physical violence against African-American and Muslim students.
One of the key elements of my R.O.A.R Program (Rude Opinions Aren’t Reality) is teaching children self-esteem, self-defense, and an understanding that another person’s “opinions” of them are not their “reality.” The truth is, bullying will never fully stop until tougher punishments are implemented in schools nationwide; until parents begin teaching their children that it is not acceptable to degrade another human being because of their differences. Until that happens, it is important to teach our children and youth the value of themselves and how to protect themselves to mitigate bullying. While the program mission is one that has much promise, the reality is that the execution is a little more complex. President-Elect Trump has single-handedly made an already difficult task for anti-bullying advocates, parents, teachers, and school systems that much harder to counter.
The questions that anti-bullying advocates must now ask themselves is: “How do we address this new form of bullying?” “How do we ease the fear and anxieties in our minority students?” What suggestions for tougher consequences can we provide to school systems and school security?” The reality for me is that instead of now speaking to an African-American student who is being bullied by his classmates for being underprivileged, or to the Mexican student being bullied because she is not deemed “attractive” enough, or the Muslim student who is teased because she is not allowed to wear the “hottest clothing” worn by her classmates; I now have to address a growing fear that they are no longer safe in their communities or their schools due to their White classmates and neighbors who feel emboldened by President-Elect Trump. These children hear the shouts of “Go back to Africa!”, “You’re being deported back to Mexico and thrown over the wall!” or “You’re a terrorist, go back to Syria!” Some children live in fear of being physically assaulted.
The next four years are guaranteed to be a challenge attempting to attenuate the effects of “Trumping,” not just in our children and youth, but across this further divided country.