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Guest Columnist: Dr. Missy, Feelings Helper–“When bullying is based on race”

When bullying is based on race

Bullying is a form of aggression used to gain power and targeting peers based on racial differences is another misuse of power. Biracial and multiracial youth are more likely to be bullied than youth who identify with a single race, according to the National Voices for Equality Education and Enlightenment. Twice as many ethnic minority youth in elementary school report being bullied because of their race.

Types of Bullying

There are three main types of bullying according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:

  1. Physical (e.g. hitting, kicking, tripping/pushing, spitting, taking/breaking belongings, making rude or mean hand gestures)
  2. Verbal (e.g. name-calling, teasing, taunting, inappropriate sexual comments, threatening to cause harm)
  3. Social/Relational (e.g. spreading rumors, embarrassing someone in public, purposeful

exclusion, telling others not to be friends with someone)

What Can Parents Do?

It is important for parents to discuss the challenges that biracial and multiracial children may experience at school. Give them positive answers to the questions they may be asked; “What are you?” or “Why is your skin different from mine?”

Talk to the principals, teachers, and school counselors about ways to prevent and intervene with racially prejudiced bullying in classrooms by peers. Does your child’s school celebrate cultural diversity? Does the pre-school or kindergarten class have toys and books that represent all ethnic groups?

Research indicates that biracial and multiracial kids that are allowed to embrace and celebrate all aspects of their heritage instead of being forced to choose a single-race identity “have the best chance of success.” Talk to your children about successful Americans of mixed races: President Obama; actors like Halle Berry and Keanu Reeves; the athletes Tiger Woods and Derek Jeter; and news anchors Soledad O-Brien and Ann Curry.

Books for Children

Mixed Me: A Tale of a Girl who is both Black and White by Tiffany Catledge and Big Hair, Don’t Care by Crystal Swain-Bates.

Dolls for Children

Visit www.pattycakedoll.com to find biracial and Hispanic dolls.

Visit www.4kidslikeme.com to find multicultural dolls.

TV and Biracial

The Cheerios commercial that featured a Caucasian mom, an African-American dad, and their biracial daughter generated strong racist reactions on YouTube last year. How do we teach adults to stop ethnic bullying and racial discrimination?

PBS’s cartoon Sid the Science Kid stars a biracial kid whose father seems to be Caucasian and his mother seems to be African-American. Talk to your kids about the positive message this show sends.

Resources

When Kids Face Racism at School is a national adoption magazine with information for caregivers regarding racial bullying experienced by children who are adopted. Visit www.adoptivefamilies.com.

Visit www.k12.wa.us/SafetyCenter/BullyingHarassment/pubdocs/Race-EthnicityResearch.pdf.

Stop Bullying Now! is a website is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Health Resources and Services Administration, and the Maternal and Child Health Bureau. Visit www.stopbullying.gov.

Listen to an episode of Mixed Race Radio with a discussion on biracial bullying and when children are bullied due to skin color, hair texture, eye color or accents. Visit www.blogtalkradio.com and type in biracial bullying.

Is that Your Child?: Mothers Talk about Rearing Biracial Children is a book by Marion Kilson, PhD. and Florence Ladd, PhD. They both are parents of biracial children.

Dr. Heather Harrison writes a blog about her biracial son at www.themommypsychologist.com.

Talking to Our Children about Racism & Diversity is a booklet written to help parents and children talk together about diversity and racism. It includes examples of children’s questions and some suggestions for answering them. It is for parents whose children are between five and eight years old. Visit www.civilrights.org.

If your child is experiencing symptoms of anxiety and depression along with self-rejection due to bullying based on race, please contact a child therapist.

Dr. Missy, Ph.D., is a feelings helper, child therapist, play therapist, and child trauma therapist. She provides therapeutic services at Affirmations, Columbus, Ohio.

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