Editor’s Note: The Fresno Unified School District recently announced its plan for a $1.3 million, five-year initiative to reduce the chronic bullying which plagues its schools and students. The initiative will bring in experts to assess the problem and design strategies for reducing bullying and could become a blueprint for schools nationwide. The kNOw Fresno Youth Media Editor Mai Der Vang asked The kNOw writers to talk about the subject of bullying and their own experiences.
Marcus, 19, African-Hispanic-American
As I rested against the fence, engaged in a conversation with a friend, I felt a foot push into my back. It felt as though a tidal wave came over me. My mind transformed from the reflective young boy into a stream against a rock as I turned to see who acted in this manner. I caught a visual of an older Hispanic boy laughing and running away.
Why was I chosen for this foolish act? Had I hurt someone? No!!
I raced after him, fist clenched tightly. I stepped forth with my left foot turned and let off a blow with my right hand directly to the back of the boy’s head. He began to stumble. I took a defensive stance. My friend watched with a grin, poised for combat as I stood there breathing softly with a few teardrop stains on my cheeks. My heart was thumping like I was on crystal meth. The boy walked away. This wasn’t the last time we would engage in a physical confrontation.
This was my seventh-grade year. This problem arose out of racial slurs that were flung in my direction because of my yellowish, brown skin, which resembles that of someone from the Middle East. I had an early fascination with Islam that fueled the ignorance of a few who only threw stupid comments, like calling me a “Hindu”, which happens to be a religion, not an ethnicity, or the title “Arab,” which is far from what I am. I constantly told them that I am mixed between Native American, African American and Hispanic. My facial structure and green eyes didn’t help.
Victoria, 16, Laotian-American
You’ve been through it and I’ve been through it. I thought it was normal to punch guys and call them “girly”. Yes, I was a tomboy. It had never occurred to me that I was a bully, until I made a boy cry in eighth grade. I was stunned when this happened. Boys in school even nicknamed me “man beater.” I’ve come to understand that this behavior has something to do with low self esteem.
I learned to stand up for the victims of bullying because I realized the truth behind each perspective. I have been bullied, too. Although it was teasing and not physical violence, it was still hard to go through. Those annoying girls were causing me to hurt myself. No, I wouldn’t cut myself, but I would punch walls and doors until my hand would bruise. Of course, that did not help either. I learned how to stand up for myself.
When I see someone else stand up for himself or herself, I support them. I have a lot of respect for those who are strong enough to stand up for themselves.
Bullies and victims are alike. They both go through problems each day. The bully is angered by a problem and they’ll direct their anger toward an easy target. Should you punish and ignore the bully and direct all the comfort to the victim? I don’t think so. I believe there’s a reason behind every emotion, but it’s your choice to act appropriately.
“Omar”, 18, African-Hispanic-American
When I was young, in the sixth grade, I was on the football and baseball teams. The other boys on my team called me names and told me I was not good because I didn’t act the way they did. The reason they picked on me was because I didn’t look at girls the way they did or play around with them. So they called me names.
I was a very shy boy when I was young. At the end of the school year, I was angry with these boys teasing me. My stepfather also bossed me around and hit me a lot. I had a lot bottled up inside. When I reached middle school, I picked on smaller boys. I made them do things that made me laugh. I also had them do my homework. The boys who teased me in sixth became my friends and were a little scared of me.
By eighth grade, you could say I owned the school. The girls knew me and the boys feared me. I was enjoying it all. I was always in the office, but I didn’t get caught for the fights I got in. My stepfather didn’t do much after that. I didn’t show fear. So life got better for me. I thought sports would make me the star of the school, but I saw how the fear of other students gave me power and fame. I needed that. When I hit high school, as a freshman, I stopped what I was doing. I lost the fame I had but I didn’t care because no one picked on me.
Dasen, 17, Hmong-American
Growing up as an Asian boy in West Fresno was difficult. I personally went through being bullied by many. As far back as I could recall, it started when I became a second grader. I was pushed down by an African-American boy. To prevent problems, I just walked off. To be honest, he was a lot taller and bigger than me.
The very next day, he came up to me again and called me a racial name, like “chinky-eyes” and verbally attacked me to get on my nerves. I didn’t want to attack him back because my parents were strict. If I ever got a phone call from the school, I knew the consequences I would face.
So I played deaf whenever he came around to bug and bully me. I wanted to reach out and tell the teacher but I was afraid that the kid would come for me after school.
I’m the type of person that keeps everything inside and won’t complain about it until it bursts out. However, when I became a fifth grader, the boy’s friends started to pick on me to relieve their anger. Knowing I wouldn’t do anything back to them, they would come around and push me after they got into an argument or lost a stupid basketball game.
Finally, my feelings were overflowing and my mind was going out of control. My friends were also being attacked individually when we were not together at recess time. Knowing this made me angry and I talked with my friends about fighting back.
The following day we all agreed to back each other up if anyone tried to bully us. There the deal was made and our first attacker was the Mexican kid, a friend of the kid who attacked me. He made faces at us and called us out to rumble with him. My friends didn’t want to be the first ones to strike at him and get in trouble so we waited until his first strike. Fortunately, nothing happened and we went to class after that.
Later that day, I gathered with my friends before going home. The Mexican kid and his group attacked us and all my friends ran away while I stood my ground. They circled me and shoved me onto the ground and began to kick me. When the campus security came, they all took off and I was taken to the office.
Anna, 18, Mexican-American
Many people get picked on whether it’s behind their back or in front of them. In my opinion, I don’t believe there is one person in the world who hasn’t been picked on. It could be either from a family member, a so-called friend, or a stranger. Everyone has been made fun of at some point in his life.
People bully others because that person was probably bullied before. In my case, I was one of the persons who got picked on. As a child, I was picked on because of my weight and the way I dressed. I didn’t like playing with Barbies or dressing up like other little girls. I was into toy cars, video games, skate boarding, and most things that boys were into. I didn’t wear dresses, skirts, make up or anything that made me look like a girl. I was into baggy clothes and getting dirty. People at school considered me one of the guys and a lot of times many wondered why I didn’t dress like a girl.
I was seven years old and it was the beginning of fourth grade. My hair was super short and I weighed about 130 pounds. I was pretty big for my height and age.
His name was Raul, and he was super attractive. When I met him I thought he was a nice person, and I started to have a crush on him. As the school year went by, he found out I liked him. He would tell me that I looked nice and in a way flirted with me. Some of his friends would tell me he liked me, and others would say he wanted to ask me out.
I got excited and happy. I started to talk to him on the phone and started to trust him. I told him secrets I would not have told anyone. After three days of talking to him the bullying began. It was sort of like blackmail. He started to tell his friends what I told him and as the days went by, the whole school found out my deep secrets. They made fun of me and called me names.
I stayed quiet and I didn’t talk to anyone. I ignored my friends and tried to fake a smile to my family. I was scared and ashamed to show my face at school. My eyes would look at the ground when I walked down the hall. I wouldn’t give eye contact to any students, staff or teachers. I felt like my world had come to an end.
Angelina, 16, Hmong-American
It was the first day of high school when I saw her; she was being shown the way to her classes by her older sister. I thought that was sweet of her sister. I knew her two older sisters because the oldest one was my brother’s girlfriend. She was a short Asian girl with a big, pink backpack. On the second day of school I saw her again but this time I didn’t see any of her sisters with her.
For two weeks straight I passed by her sitting all alone at lunch in the hallway of the math classes. I wondered to myself if she ever ate lunch before or if she even knew where to go to get lunch. I asked my brother’s girlfriend about her youngest sister and why she was transferred from Roosevelt to Edison. And she told me some students at Roosevelt were mean and would make fun of her little sister. I felt sad for her.
One day I worked up my courage and confidence and I just went up to her at lunch and said ‘hi’ to her! She was really positive and a bit clumsy but with a big bright smile. She said ‘hi’ back and asked for my name. To tell the truth, I couldn’t really understand her. She can’t really speak clearly and she often leaves out words.
I asked her to lunch and she was really glad and happy. She was really talkative. She didn’t get her Edison ID card yet so she used her Roosevelt one. I asked her how come she didn’t go and get her Edison ID card and she told me that she didn’t know. Of course, I didn’t expect her to know where to go and get it, so after school I went down to the school’s activity director and asked for her ID card. I felt really good because I know that she would be really happy. The next day I gave her the ID card and she was really happy. I told her that her picture looks great and she agreed. She was still like a little kid and I felt protective of her. I didn’t want anything bad happen to her.
My brother’s girlfriend came over and she told me that her youngest sister changed ever since she started hanging with me at lunch. At first I was scared because I thought that I was being a bad influence, but actually what my brother’s girlfriend meant was that she was a lot happier now. She told me of how her youngest sister would come home really happy each day telling her that she has a Hmong girl friend.
I don’t understand how people could just pass people by and not notice that they are lonely and sad or just need someone. And I don’t see the fun of making fun of other people or how it could boost up their confidence. I think that all people need to do to prevent bullying is have people there to help the victims and the bullies get along.
I don’t think that all the money that is being used on bullying is necessary. In fact, I think that the program that we have now is already good, it just needs more improvements. I think that all schools should have a buddies club. It could be a club where you go and grab lonely freshmen and other kids and be friends with. The members of the club need to be understanding and kind-hearted. I think that with a club like this is worth a try.
Gracie, 16, Mexican-American
A small girl with long dark brown hair, purple glasses that tinted in the sun, white collar shirt and a navy blue skirt. An awkward but loving girl. As she walked down the hallway to go to her first grade class, a pack of boys started walking behind her, teasing her and calling her names. One stuck his foot out and tripped her, which caused her to fall into a puddle of mud. She ran off crying to the office telling the office manager what happened, but nothing was ever done about it.
Sadly, this little girl who got pushed into the mud was me. The next day, I wasn’t going to take these little boys’ crap. When they tried to do the same thing again, I turned around and punched one of them in his face, which caused us to fight and got me suspended.
Now, I know some may think that bullying isn’t a problem, but it is. Kids and teens can’t stand being made fun of or anything of the sort, which causes them to have crappy futures. Take for instance the Virginia Tech shooting. The gunman was made fun of all his life for his speech impediments, which probably caused him to do the thing he did, and I’m pretty sure no one wanted that to happen.
This article was previously posted on the New America Media website here.