When I was in elementary school, I had a very diverse class setting but Asians were still the minority. While I consider my elementary school experience as a happy and great one, there were moments of bullying that I will never forget. My first instance I remember was when non-Asian students would ask me how to pronounce my last name: Tsui. I would phonetically say it slowly: “TSOY, like the t and the s are blended together.” But that response was merely followed by remarks including:
Soy? Like soy sauce?!
Suey… suey suey suey!
I mainly disregarded them, and did not really let that instance get me down.
Now it is important to note that as a kid, it is common for one child to pick on another based simply on a difference in almost anything - looks, actions, facial expressions, or in this case, name. However, just because it is common for this to be the case, does not make it right. Any sort of teasing that is done can ultimately considered to be bullying, especially if one party is hurt physically and/or emotionally.
In a recent study, Asian Americans were found to be the most bullied students in U.S. schools. Some reasons given for this result include the language barriers that exist for Asian Americans, and also a spike in racial abuse against Muslim children due to the 9/11 attacks. Here are some numbers:
- 54% of Asian American teenagers said they were bullied in the classroom, compared to 38.4% for African Americans, 34.3% for Hispanics and 31.3% of whites
- Cyber-bullying is even worse with 62% of Asian Americans reporting online harassment once or twice a month, compared with 18.1% of whites
President Obama has placed a priority on fighting bullying. In March 2011, he joined Facebook for an online anti-bullying conference, where he warned that social media was increasing the bullying problem.
While there is much talk as to how to change the figures above, kids, teachers, parents, and communities need to proactively realize all of the following:
- What bullying is
- When bullying occurs
- What to do when the bullying happens
When I was made fun of due to my last name, I had no idea that the remarks were considered bullying and never talked to anyone else about the issue. Especially for Asian American children with language barriers, there needs to be information given in schools about what bullying really means and how to go about the situation if and when it occurs. Without the information given to everyone in the community, children of all races will continue to be bullied. A concrete plan of action needs to be in place. The question now is: what will that plan be, and how can it be implemented to ensure that Asian Americans do not have such a high percentage of being bullied? The plan needs to be worked on now, before the next kid has a bad day and schools do not know what to do.