Sunday 17 February 2002

Standing up to bullies

In a thoughtful essay on bullying, Meryl Yourish writes:

And so I’m going to say something that will probably piss off a lot of you out there, but here it is: Bystanders who say nothing when they see bullying going on must also bear a share of the guilt. And there are many of you out there who said nothing when other kids were bullied. I understand the reasons: You didn’t want the bully to shift attention to you, and maybe start picking on you. I do get that. But then you have to understand that you also bear some of the blame of bullying. It isn’t all on the bad kids’ shoulders. It’s also on the shoulders of the silent.

She’s right. And bullying can take many different forms. One night last year I was taking the train home after a Japanese class. A young man carrying a bible walked into the carriage and accosted a young Asian woman sitting directly across the aisle from me. He asked her a series of questions about where she was going, where she worked, whether she believed in God and went to church. I looked carefully at her reaction and it seemed abundantly clear that she was not interested and wanted to be left alone. My instinctive response was to intervene but I wanted to be sure that I wasn’t projecting my anti-zealot attitudes onto her.

Finally she looked across at me with an expression that clearly said: “I’m very uncomfortable about this but I don’t know what to do.” That was enough. I interrupted him, told him that his questions were unwelcome, and suggested he stop immediately. He stared at me, thought for  a moment, then got up and left the carriage. She caught my eye and smiled a thank you.

Then, to my amazement, people all around us started saying: “Good on you!” “Well done!” “He deserved to be told off like that!” A few even clapped. I thought to myself, “Gee, if you felt so strongly about it, why did you just sit there?”

Permalink | Technorati

© Copyright 2007 Jonathon Delacour