The more I looked into the bullying going on against my son the more complications I discovered. For one thing, I found out that many children were affected by Terry’s bullying. He bullied and intimidated many. But one story I heard was particularly troubling.
Sam, the son of an Iranian woman at school, had also had problems with Terry. Sam’s mother, Leila, told me that one of Sam’s friends told her that Terry teased Sam by making disparaging comments about Iran. This friend said that Terry says “Iran sucks” and makes “I-ran” jokes to provoke Sam. The interesting thing is that Sam had never mentioned this to his mother. When Leila talked to him about it he said that he sometimes laughs at the “I-ran” jokes but when Terry makes fun of his mother for being Iranian he feels he has to defend her.
This was a shocking revelation to Leila who had never felt discriminated against at the school. One day as she climbed the stairs toward Sam’s classroom one of his classmates spotted her, ran into the classroom and announced to a group of kids, “The bitch is here.” Terry was not among this group but it was clear that the teasing of Sam and disrespect toward his mother had spread. At any rate, after a talk with the principal and the classroom teacher the Iran-related abuse seemed to cease. But we will never know what was said to whom and what steps were taken.
I could not help putting Terry’s anti-Iran sentiments in the context of his “I hope the US wins the war” context. Leila and I still wonder how the kids reconcile the politics of this country with having classmates who have connections to countries with whom the US is at actual or potential war. But clearly there is under-reported tension among the kids.
Another incident shed more light for me on this tension. I had volunteered to drive kids from Jack’s class on a field trip. I had my son and two classmates of his in the backseat of the car. On the way back to school we drove by a Chinese immersion school where the majority of kids are of Chinese background. Kids from our school occasionally go to this school because we share an after-school program. Passing by this school Jessica in the backseat said: “Not that I don’t like Chinese kids but I don’t like to go to schools where there are no American children to play with.” In the rear view mirror I shot a glance at the other kid in the back seat, a Mexican American boy, to see his reaction to this comment. He was looking straight ahead of him and his face was completely blank.
The fact of the matter is that we can be as politically correct as we want (and we are very politically correct in San Francisco) but kids learn their own lessons from observing the actual things they see happening. But I won’t go into that…
In my first blog about the bullying against Jack I mentioned that there were a couple of girls who were instrumental in creating the bullying gang. Jessica was the main girl involved in that. Again, I had heard about her bullying tendencies from other mothers as well.
So here we have two kids – Terry and Jessica – who are bullies and who make comments that can only be called racist. Is this surprising?
What I think, though, is not that some kids are racists and that’s why they are bullies. I think racism is a socially acceptable outlet for channeling violence, and feeling superior by seeing yourself as part of the “winning” team. It is not just that racism creates bullies. It is also that it is bullies who create racism.
This is not surprising either, is it?