Multicultural Bullying in Schools – Diversity and Multicultural Identity is at Risk
Never have I felt more diminished than when I was tormented for my race or where I come from. Bullied for things that I can’t change about myself. How can you judge me then turn around and hurt me for it?
Is this something you can relate to?
Unfortunately, too many can relate to multicultural bullying, a form of bias-based bullying that targets a person’s mixed race, ethnicity, or national origin. Diversity and multicultural identity are at risk from this racist bullying.
US News published a California Healthy Kids Survey showing that within the last year racist bullying affected 14% of public high school students based upon their ethnicity, 6% on their immigrant status or perceived status, and 7% because of their religion. According to the same reported study, black students experienced repeated biased-based bullying more than any other race or ethnic group.
Effects of bullying on multicultural identity
Sadly, multicultural bullying effects the dynamics of multicultural identity and introduces a lifetime of health risks upon the individual, such as cigarette smoking (which nearly doubled across all ethnicities), drug and alcohol abuse, prescription meds addiction, and even cardiovascular disease and cancer due to the substantial toll the body’s biological response and behaviors. Furthermore, multicultural bullying and cyberbullying in a multicultural society has detrimental psychological and sociological effects on those being bullied. They are less likely to diversify their inner circle and socialize with people outside their race for fear of mistreatment, which only perpetuates the disintegration of a blended community.
If you’re dealing with this type of bullying, you are not alone. In her own words, Carolina shares her story:
“I grew up in a suburb of Washington, DC, where I was bullied as a child and into my teens for being dark-skinned. I’m part African, and I was definitely the darkest girl in my family and my neighborhood, which was majority white. This fueled a lot of anger in me, and I began to resent my skin color because I wasn’t taught to celebrate it. I equated my skin color with pain and undesirability. My brother and I struggled as taunts turned into violence, and school officials refused to take our side. They bullied us, too.
Dying to assimilate, I bleached my hair and wore violet colored contacts and escaped into the rave music scene that was based on acceptance and freedom of expression. Peace- Love-Unity-Respect (PLUR) was our motto, and we took that to heart. I could be myself and feel safe. But it didn’t last because I’d return to school and work and still be subjected to the comments, the stares, the blatant bigotry. My skin condition, combined with a much later diagnosed stress condition, eventually caused my hair to fall out.
At the request of my doctor, I took the stress out of the equation and moved away from the area to disappear into the multi-cultural landscape that is New York City. I finally felt like I blended in, but I was still searching for where I truly belonged. NYC is a high-stress city with a lot of stimulation, and my hair soon fell out again. I knew I still had healing to do but needed to be somewhere less intense, so I made a move to Los Angeles.
I’ve faced similar ups and downs in Los Angeles, but I found far more creative outlets as well as endless communities devoted to mind and body wellness. I’ve met so many meditation and yoga enthusiasts, and mental health advocates that I was encouraged to explore all of these tools for maintaining my well-being.
Throughout this whole process on my road to recovering from childhood traumas, I had one consistent piece that helped me stay afloat. I channeled my emotions into my art. I moved to NYC to pursue acting, and I started songwriting almost immediately. And when I went through a rough patch in LA during a time when I had no health insurance, I found that comedy writing and performing helped me recharge while feeling like a kid again.
You don’t have to be a writer or musician or any type of creative person. If you are, use what aches and put it down on paper. If you aren’t, use what aches and put it down on paper. Write the pain out of your gut. Make a habit of it. You might discover that you like writing and your body may instinctually inspire a new vocation. But writing it out is a great way to process what is happening. It helps you get your thoughts in order.
The next best thing is talking to someone. A friend, a mentor, a parent, a counselor, and if you feel you need something more – a professional. It is worth it. The sooner a trauma is processed, the better off you’ll be. I still see someone occasionally and share the good things happening in life, not just the bad. And I also go in for intense sessions to get some regressed traumas worked out if/when they start to surface. Because I’m still a work in progress. We all are. “
Carolina’s story demonstrates how devastating bullying can be for racially diverse kids. You are not alone. We know being bullied hurts, but please don’t allow anyone to chip away your self-worth. That belongs to you. Remember Carolina’s struggle and how she triumphed. It didn’t happen overnight, but it happened. And it will for you too.
The Indian actress, singer, film producer, and the winner of the Miss World 2000 pageant Priyanka Chopra Jonas was bullied while she lived in the United States. In an interview given to Glamour, she says, “Maybe I, being on the platform that I am, can say this louder than the kid who has to get on the subway and go to school: You don’t need to be afraid of who you are. I don’t want any kid to feel the way I felt in school. I was afraid of [the person bullying me]. It made me feel like I’m less — in my skin, in my identity, in my culture.”
Celebrate others and where they are from because we learn from one another and then we mimic or live by what we absorb – what’s cool, who to talk to, who to steer clear of – even our fears are learned. It’s important to create inclusive environments in a multicultural context, such as schools and public community areas because that’s where seeds are sowed. It’s important to drive that all-encompassing and inclusive mentality because it will grow.
If you’re being bullied, please know that there is nothing wrong with you or where you come from. Don’t allow this pain to control your mindset. Take this situation and flip it on its axis. Know that whatever city or part of the country you are located in not everyone is like the person who is bullying you. Go out and meet people, get to know who they are, and allow them to get to know you. You will learn something new and hopefully discover a commonality between you—maybe even have fun along the way. Be the change that you deserve.
And if you need help, it’s okay — it’s more than okay, it’s wonderful. We at Free2Luv are here for you and don’t forget there are other avenues like seeking a friend or a counselor or expressing yourself through art. Write songs, poetry, screenplays. Paint, etch, woodwork, sculpt, sing, draw, act. There are so many options available to you so be open — don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. Find what speaks to you and wield it. We at Free2Luv see your unique qualities as reflections of light on the ocean. Forever glistening and evolving.
Thank you, musician Carolina Hoyos, for sharing your story.