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Bullying of Blacks takes a toll on mental health

Mental Illness (271505)
Mental Illness

Although Black children make up 15 percent of the US public school population, they comprise 35 percent of those who reported being harassed or bullied on the bases of race, color or national origin according to the US Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights.

As some lawmakers and parents attempt to limit teachings about racism, schools’ diversity and inclusion efforts are met with protests, and numerous reports of racist bullying have surfaced in schools from across the nation.

In Plano, Texas, 13-year-old SeMarion Humphrey had endured bullying by his own football teammates at Haggard Middle School for over a year. Eventually, the harassment became so severe he quit the team. The allegations include taking his inhaler, beating him with a belt in a school locker room, calling him racial slurs, shooting him with BB guns, and forcing him to drink urine.

After she couldn’t get a meeting with the school superintendent, Humphrey’s mother, Summer Smith, posted videos and screenshots of Haggard Middle School football players bullying her son on Facebook.  She was told by the superintendent’s office that because some of the events took place off campus, there was nothing they could do about the bullying.

Black children continue to suffer from peers making threats, spreading rumors, attacking them physically or verbally, and excluding them from group activities.  Online bullying or cyberbullying including mean text messages or emails, rumors sent by email or posted on social networking sites, and embarrassing pictures, videos, websites, or fake profiles, are also prevalent.

Cyberbullying is particularly unsettling and extremely difficult to combat because victims often do not know who is behind it.  Furthermore, there is no opportunity for bystanders to witness incidents and to potentially intervene.  Most disturbing is the fact that in today’s world of omnipresent social media, cyberbullying can be inescapable and relentless.

Isabella “Izzy” Tichenor, a 10-year-old Black and autistic child in Salt Lake City, Utah, died by suicide after relentless unaddressed bullying.

Izzy’s mom, Brittany Tichenor-Cox, said that Izzy reported being “belittled and bullied” at school and online prior to her death. Things became worse after she told her mother that she was being teased by her classmates and didn’t think the teacher liked her because she didn’t interact with her in the same way that she did with other students.

“Nothing. Nothing was done to protect Izzy. Children did not have their behavior corrected so the torment of this child continued day after day,” Tichenor-Cox said.

A report from the Government Accountability Office estimated that 5.2 million students aged 12 to 18 were bullied in the 2019-2020 school year and one in four of them experienced bullying related to their race, national origin, religion, disability, gender or sexual orientation.

The agency found that while students experience a range of hostile behaviors, hate is widespread in schools. More than 1,500 schools reported having at least one hate crime occur and about 5.8 million students said they saw hate words or symbols written at schools. That included anti-Semitic slurs, references to lynching, the Holocaust, and anti-immigrant speech, the report indicates.

Although bullying is most associated with adolescents and young adults, it is also commonplace among adult peer groups, in public spaces and especially in the workplace. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, workplace bullying closely mirrors school bullying and includes repeated conduct that is “malicious, disparaging, derogatory, rude, disrespectful, abusive, obnoxious, and demeaning.”

For Black employees at Tesla’s flagship plant in Fremont, Calif., coming into work could mean being harassed, bullied by a supervisor or finding racist graffiti sprayed on factory walls. One Black worker reported hearing racial slurs as often as 50-100 times a day, being called the “N-word,” and “hood rats.”

On February 9, the California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) filed a lawsuit on Tesla employee’s behalf. In the suit, DFEH said Black workers reported they were subjected not only to racist slurs and drawings, but were assigned the most physically demanding jobs.

“Workers referred to the factory as the ‘slave ship’ or the plantation,’ where defendants’ production leads ‘crack the whip’,” the agency said in the complaint.

According to the Balance, a resource for personal enrichment, workplaces provide optimal conditions for bullying to maximize harm:

• 29% of employees who are targets of bullies remain silent about their experiences.

• 40% of people targeted by a bully experience stress-related health problems.

• 60% of the target’s coworkers’ reactions are harmful to the targets of a bully.

• 61% of Americans are aware of abusive conduct that takes place in the workplace.

• 71% of employer reactions are harmful to the workplace targets of bully behavior.

• 65% percent of targets lose their original jobs to stop workplace bullying.

Those who faced discrimination frequently — at least a few times per month — were approximately 25 percent more likely to be diagnosed with a mental disorder and twice as likely to develop severe psychological distress than people who didn’t experience discrimination or did less often, according to a study published  by the National Bullying Prevention Center(NBPC). See for help against bullying and hate.

This article is a part of a series of articles for Our Weekly’s #StopTheHate campaign and is supported in whole or part by funding provided by the State of California, administered by the California State Library. #NoPlaceForHateCA,

#StopAAPIHate, #CaliforniaForAll