Anti-Bullying Day: Intercultural and Racial Bullying

From my Healthy Living column in Moncton’s Times & Transcript.

In honor of Anti-Bullying Day, which took place on Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011 this year, it seemed appropriate to feature bullying and its prevention in this week’s column.

I recently had the chance to speak with Dr. Manju Varma-Joshi, a Moncton resident who worked on a New Brunswick study about racial bullying and name-calling earlier in the decade that was published in the Harvard Review and that afterwards gained international attention.

Dr. Varma-Joshi’s interest in multiculturalism stems from a combination of experiences with multiculturalism during her childhood in New Brunswick, where there are very few minorities, and during her post-secondary studies in Toronto, where multiculturalism is rampant.

She says, ”I finished a bachelor’s in education and for some time, I taught at a First Nations community in New Brunswick (known for some time as Big Cove; now known as the Elsipogtog First Nation community). It struck me that the curriculum used was not meeting students’ needs in terms of giving them educational resources relevant to their upbringing. I remember discussing a story in an English textbook about a young girl who lived with her father in a condo that was asked to put money into a parking meter. The plot revolved around the little girl being in trouble after her father’s car was towed away because she forgot to add coins to the meter. My students were unable to relate to the story at all; condos and parking meters weren’t part of their reality at all. Experiences like this one developed my interest in multiculturalism and I decided to pursue graduate studies in curriculum development with a focus on multiculturalism.”

Dr. Varma-Joshi and colleagues Cynthia Baker and Connie Tanaka originally planned to conduct their study on racial name-calling targeted toward all visible racial minorities, but circumstances led them to concentrate on Black and Aboriginal minorities. ”All of the kids and young adults who signed up to participate in the study, which involved only New Brunswick students, were Black or Aboriginal. The participants often had a first and shocking experience with racial name-calling in early elementary school, which was followed by bullying up until graduation in some cases. Once the initial shock was past, victims remained in denial about being bullied usually until junior high school, which was a common time for victims to start fighting back. Often times, victims didn’t feel supported by their schools and communities, who, according to our participants, often wrote off bullying as ‘a normal part of growing up’.” says Dr. Varma-Joshi.

”However, victims had a different view of the bullying they had to endure. High school and university students still vividly remembered their negative experiences and when asked what they would recommend to schools regarding bullying, they urged schools to take name-calling seriously, particularly racial name-calling, and to be more inclusive of different cultural groups.”

 

Originally published in the Times & Transcript on February 26th, 2011.

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