Written by Jennifer; Originally published at Mixed Race America.
Recently a study came out that found that 54% of Asian American teens experienced bullying–this is compared to 31.3% of white teens and 38.4% of black teens and 34.3% of Latino teens. Cyberbullying is even more rampant among Asian Americans, with a remarkable 62% of Asian American teens being targeted on-line compared with 18.1% of white teens.
Many of those bullied seemed to be targeted as “terrorists”–assumably because they are either identified as Muslim or Arab American or in the case of South Asians, potentially mis-identified, at least in terms of ethnic nationalism and religion (in the case of non-Muslim South Asian Americans).
This disturbing study comes out at the same time as a news piece about a soldier in Afghanistan, Chinese American Private Danny Chen, who was found in a guard tower with a bullet to his head. It’s not clear whether it was self-induced (ie: suicide) or whether he was murdered (and it’s unclear who might have murdered him). What is reported in the New York Times story is that Chen described being harassed in the Army, by fellow privates and his superiors, based on his racial and ethnic difference from them–bullied because he was Asian American.
Do we need a similar grass-roots movement for Asian American teens? To reassure them that it will “get better”–that the harassment and bullying that they are experiencing will cease or at least become more tolerable? Or should we, as a society, be trying to educate our youth (and our adults) that bullying someone based on their race or ethnicity–targeting Asian Americans because they are Asian Americans, is plain and simple racism. Making fun of Asian Americans because they may look different from white Americans, because they may speak with a non-American accent (we all speak with an accent–it just depends on how you choose to normalize it), about the differences in their values and what they eat–and my all time favorite, when people pull back their eyes to suggest a “slanted” look. These things are NOT OK — THEY ARE EXAMPLES OF RACISM. And they are also never harmless. I think when we imagine a small child doing these things, we think, “Oh, these are just kids.” But when mocking someone of another race goes unchecked, I think our entire society needs to be held responsible.