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Not a whole lot. Because this is the wrong question.

Bullying will not stop. Nothing stops bullying. I speak as someone who was bullied constantly throughout elementary school, to the point where I wished I was dead. Because I was smart, because I read, because I was fat, because I liked the teachers, because I didn't have friends, because because because.

Kids are cruel. They will always find something to bully. Tell them to stop picking on someone for something, and they'll find another subject, another way, another person to bully. No one deserves it, but quite frankly the kids are just echoing what they've seen and heard in society at large. All those "jokes" at the expense of fat people, people of color, people who are differently abled, people who are on the autism scale, people with different regional accents, people who say words funny, people who practice a different religion, people who have a different sexuality, or a different perceived sexuality, whatever. Bullying is learned behavior, and it will never stop. Because humans are cruel, and so their children are cruel.

The correct question is what can be done to mitigate the bullying? What can adults do to make sure that even kids who are bullied live through those tough years we call a "magical childhood"? First of all, stop telling jokes at other people's expenses: that tells your children it's okay. Second of all, teachers, parents, friends, tell people you care. Tell people who are bigger or smaller than average that they aren't freaks because their bodies look different. Tell people you love their accent instead of complaining you can't understand them. Tell and show people that it is okay to be who they are, to love who they love, to live the way they want if they're not hurting anyone. Stick up for people who are being bullied; it won't stop it, but it will show the bullied that there are people who care.

I didn't kill myself when I was young because my parents loved me, and said so. My mother told me the kids at school didn't understand, and that someday I would find people I could be myself with. She was right, and it helped, but only eventually. Teachers talked to me like a person, instead of a victim, and tried to come to my defense when they could. Even the rare, one-meeting friendships I had, where someone met and began talking to me, didn't ridicule me or belittle me, showed me that I could be more than the bullies had made me (more than I'd allowed the bullies to make me.)

Nothing stops bullies. Nothing will stop bullying in schools, except for a total eradication of any kind of bias throughout societies and in our homes. And that ain't gonna happen.

So mitigation is all we can do, but boy does it work. I'm living (thankfully) proof.


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April 2012

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