“Black boy go back to work in my sugar plantation”

bullying-student-child-boyThere is no doubt that the above statement is a racist comment. It was said to a 13 year old boy at a high school in Auckland. His distraught father reported that his son had endured systematic bullying for over a year. He said his son had complained to the teachers about the racial remarks. Unfortunately, the teachers did nothing to stop it. His situation became worse after he had reported three boys’ disorderly behaviour to the teachers. The bullies called him “a snitch” and many other undesirable names. Despite all his bad experiences at school, the boy did not want his parents to come to his school to discuss the issue with the school authorities. He feared that it would only aggravate the situation. The bullying continued. His mother then decided to do something about it: she went to the school to talk about her son’s situation. She was hoping that the family’s concerns would be addressed and that her son would be given the support he desperately needed. One day the boy came home and told his parents that another boy at the school had said to him, “Black boy go back to work in my sugar plantation”. For the parents, this was the last straw. They had no choice but to transfer their son to another school. The question that comes to mind is, “Is racism a form of bullying”? Unfortunately the answer is YES. According to Kidscape website, any hostile or offensive action against people because of their skin colour, cultural or religious beliefs can be classified as racist bullying. It can include:

  • physical, verbal or emotional bullying
  • insulting or degrading comments, name calling, gestures, taunts or “jokes”
  • offensive graffiti
  • humiliating, excluding, tormenting, ridiculing or threatening
  • making fun of the customs, music, accent or dress of anyone from a different culture
  • refusal to work with or co-operate with others because they are from a different culture.

Now that racist bullying has been identified; the next stage is to find a solution to the problem. Racist bullying may give children a complex about their ethnic background. Nadra Kareem Nittle suggests that to counteract the messages of a racist bully, parents should help their children to feel good about their cultural heritage by celebrating cultural events and exposing them to literature, film and music in which people from their ethnic group feature prominently. Is this enough? After the parents’ decision to transfer their son to another school, they received a letter from the principal of the school where their son used to attend. It reads in part: “Thank you for your letter dated 22 July 2014, which is distressing to me. I am taking it seriously, and I believe I am doing much to ensure there is a Christian school climate. I will follow on the names given – in fact one of the boys named is currently stood down for his behaviour. I too saw fights early this year and took strong action as Xxxxxx would tell you. Several students involved were expelled. I will ring later……”  To his credit, the principal acknowledged that bullying is indeed taking place at the school. However, the boy’s father feels that more should have been done. Let us talk about this. Do you think the school took appropriate action? What else could have been done?

Twitter – @NoBullyingNZ    Facebook – NBI – No Bullying Initiative     Email- public_relations@antibullying.co.nz

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