Worries about discrimination and racism are at the heart of efforts to get Virginia Governor Ralph Northam to resign from office. But did you know there’s a connection to bullying in all this? More on this later, but first the controversy.
Northam’s 1984 med school yearbook page shows a picture of a person in blackface and another wearing a Ku Klux Klan hood . . . next to different pictures of the then doctor-governor-to be.
Discrimination and racism.
Northam’s many critics feel that 1) his behavior in 1984 showed an insensitivity to the feelings and sensibilities of blacks at a time in history when everyone in his neck of the woods knew better, and 2) his behavior—and current flip-flopping—augur ill for him being able to govern Virginia moving forward.
Yesterday’s admission that he was in the racist photo contradicts today’s statements by the Governor that he does not now believe he was in the picture. Tosay, he gave no definitive proof of his new position. In fact, he dug his grave deeper by saying he used smudges of shoe polish on his face when he dressed up as Michael Jackson for a dance contest back in 1984.
So past acts of discrimination and prejudice may soon sink Northam. What’s important to know, though, is that there’s a bullying connection to his kind of behavior.
The unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people—especially on the grounds of race, age, or sex—is part of the USA Bully Culture” according to bullying experts Cavan and Hart in the excerpt below.*
“How our fear of minorities is connected to bullying—
Bullying of minorities has always been a problem in America, where the newest wave of immigrants are traditionally welcomed with insults, suspicion, and discrimination. Racism and bullying go hand in hand.
Bullying of those with different gender preferences, however, is such a severe problem there’s a word for it: gay-bashing. Not only is there widespread permissiveness for name-calling (“faggot” is the most-often used epithet on playgrounds), there are many religious organizations who see this genetic difference as a sin and condone hate speech and physical harm.
Discrimination and racism.
Bullying becomes discrimination when it is widely accepted. Before the Women’s Rights movement in the 1960s, derogatory jokes about women were normal and considered “funny,” just as it is alarmingly common for today’s kids and teens to disparage “gayness.” Current anti-bullying legislation that calls for tolerance has even been challenged by some groups to take language about LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) bullying out.
The bullying connection.
Child expert Michele Borba says, “After students confirm to me that bullying is indeed a ‘big’ problem, I ask: ‘Who do bullies choose for their victims? Is there a specific trait they look for?’ The number one word I hear: ‘Different.’”
Bullies too often target a victim based on race, ethnicity, age, religion, disability, beliefs, gender, appearance, behavior or sexual orientation. Today’s American youth are displaying intolerant actions at alarming rates-and at younger and younger ages. The FBI tells us most hate crimes are committed by youth younger than nineteen.”
—What’s your take on Governor Northam atoning for his “sins of the past”? and
—Do you think a subculture of discrimination in America’s past causes kids to bully those who are “different” today?
*An adapted excerpt from Chapter 1 of a positive parenting guide, The Bullying Antidote,“ an in-depth trove of easy-to-implement strategies in abuse prevention” that “triumphs as an in-depth guide to the troubling world of bullying” (quotes by readers). Louise Hart Ed.D. (www.drlouisehart.com) is also the author of The Winning Family and On the Wings of Self-Esteem with co-author Kristen Caven (www.kristencaven.com). Learn more about bullying by perusing and subscribing to The Zorgos Reader: zorgos.wordpress.com.
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