This morning I learned that tomorrow, March 10, 2011, President and Mrs. Obama will be hosting a White House Conference on Bullying Prevention.
I’ve wondered if incidences of bullying are occuring more frequently, or if it is simply because they are being reported more often by news media. Then I realize it doesn’t matter – one bullying incident is too many. It is cruel and often leads to very severe consequences, like the victim’s suicide.
Sadly, bullying has always taken place in one form or another. Many of the news stories today are about bullying directed toward gays, but it can be directed toward anyone perceived as being “different” from the bully. My book, Broken Dolls, deals with bullying toward Japanese-Americans during World War II. Here is an excerpt:
On the way to school, Sachi sat in the front seat next to Papa, pouting over the way the morning had gone. Sometimes Mama really made her mad, always making her practice, practice, practice.
Finally, she had to ask Papa, “Why does Mama make me do my Japanese dance and music lessons? All of my friends get to play whenever they want to.”
He looked at her with an eyebrow raised. “All of your friends? But what is your name?”
“Sachiko,” she whispered. Not even Papa was on her side.
“This is your mother’s way of teaching you to remember your Japanese heritage. You must be patient. You may not understand until you are older.” He pulled into the school parking lot.
The front lawn was crowded with kids hanging around, waiting for the bell to ring.
She crossed her arms. Great. They will all stare at me.
There were things she hated about third grade. Like having homework. And mean old Mrs. Nelson. Worst of all were the kids who called her slant-eyes. One day at lunch, a boy in her class had moved to another table, all because she sat next to him. Snickers and whispers had surrounded her like moths around a porch light. She left her tray on the table and ran out of the cafeteria. But those moths flitted and batted around her all the way out.
She opened the car door.
“Are you not forgetting something?” Papa leaned his cheek toward her.
Hoping nobody was looking, she gave him a quick peck on the cheek — even if he was on Mama’s side. “Bye, Papa.”
“Bye-bye. Have a good day.”
She shrugged her shoulders. How good a day could it be with all the kids teasing her about being Japanese?
Eyes focused on the sidewalk, she hurried toward the red brick building and wished she were anywhere but there, walking past those kids. Adrenaline shot through her legs as she ran through the crowd of stares and whispers. Running to class had nothing to do with being late and everything to do with being Japanese.
The day had been long, but finally, the bell for the last class rang. She hurried out the door and found Papa waiting in the car – her safe zone. Seeing him lifted her spirits a bit, and she ran to the car. More whispers and giggles buzzed around her, but she ignored them. She had quit counting how many times someone called her Jap that day.
I hope the Obama’s conference will open discussion about the cruelty and damage bullying can cause. If you would like more information, links follow: