“You can f** king rot in hell … no one likes N*** ers … f**king kill yourself right this time,” said a young White girl on a video in Savage, Minnesota, that was widely viewed on social media.
The target of that rant, 14-year-old Nya Sigin, a Black student at Prior Lake High School, joins the growing list of 12–18-year olds around the country facing bullying, according to a new report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).
The report estimated that 5.2 million students aged 12 to 18 were bullied in the 2018-2019 school year and one in four of them experienced bullying related to their race, national origin, religion, disability, gender or sexual orientation and that number is growing.
“Every year millions of K-12 students experience hostile behaviors including bullying, hate speech, and hate crimes while in school. In recent years, the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice have issued reminders to schools about their obligations to address harassment and discrimination targeting Muslim, Asian-American, Jewish, LGBTQI+, and immigrant students,” GAO wrote to Rep. Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-Va.), Chair of the Committee on Education and Labor in the House of Representatives in their report released in early December.
Students are responding all around the country to these increasing incidents of bullying by walking out and staging protests. Right outside of the Nation’s Capital in Bethesda, Md., a D.C. suburb at Walter Johnson High school, “White Pride” was found sprayed on a wall at the school in October. The principal, Jennifer Baker, sent a message to students condemning the graffiti stating in part, “Defacing our school with graffiti is bad enough, but symbols of hate speech are harmful and unsettling for many in our community.”
Two weeks later the students staged a protest rally. Shiima Nantulya, a junior, told the media the rally was important to raise awareness of what students of color face. She explained that the graffiti was not the only incident. Some boys even yelled racial slurs in the hallway after school.
“It just reminded me of how silenced we are because no one spoke up. And that is an issue here that we need to solve, the silencing of voices of color,” she said.
The GAO report found that hostile behaviors affect the victim, the perpetrator and witnesses.
Victims are more likely to experience depression and anxiety, interrupted sleep and eating disorders, and loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy. Perpetrators are more likely to abuse alcohol and other drugs in adolescence and as adults, get into fights, vandalize property, and drop out of school. Witnesses to bullying are more likely to have increased use of tobacco, alcohol, or other drugs, have increased mental health problems, including depression and anxiety and miss or skip school.
Dr. Kevin Washington, chair of the Psychology and Sociology Department at Grambling State University, explained to The Final Call, that the context for this rise in hate has to be understood.
“A climate of White supremacy was promulgated by the 45th president,” he said, referring to Donald Trump. “It’s imperative to understand that he did not create the conversation. He simply marketed the construct the society was right for it. He simply utilized the lingua franca (common language) of a populace that suggested building an inferior group and a superior group,” said Dr. Washington.
“He heightened the conversation around racism, around the gender discourse. That is what people are talking about as well as the issue of ethnic groups. Out of this, you have the growing groups, the Proud Boys, we have the Charlottesville massacre and other things that took place.
This trickles down to children who see this as a part of the identity of White nationalism, the identity of Whiteness. The threat to that becomes the cultural other, Blacks and others like Mexicans.”
Earlier this year in Utah, a 10-year-old Black girl died by suicide after her mother says she was bullied for being Black and autistic. Isabelle “Izzy” Tichenor was a fifth-grade student at Utah’s Foxboro Elementary School and according to media reports she suffered extensive bullying from other students. Her family said their pleas when reporting what “Izzy” endured fell on deaf ears. Her death Nov. 6 came about two weeks after a federal civil rights investigation found widespread racial harassment of Black and Asian American students at Davis School District, including hundreds of documented uses of the N-word and other racial epithets over the last five years, reported Associated Press.
Black students throughout the district told investigators about similar experiences of White and non- Black students calling them the N-word, referring to them as monkeys or apes and saying that their skin was dirty or looked like feces, according to the department’s findings. Students also made monkey noises at their Black peers, repeatedly referenced slavery and lynching and told Black students to “go pick cotton” and “you are my slave,” noted AP.
Dr. Washington explained this hatred comes on the heels of also having eight years of a Black president. Many Whites feel as if they must take their country back from the people, mostly Blacks, who “stole it.”
The negative effects of these increasing incidents is the socialization of White identity, according to Dr. Washington. “White children are getting the identity of their prowess, their strength, their invincibility, their high order within the system of hierarchy that says they are privileged, and all others are beneath them. Children have to figure out how to demonstrate this prowess. They act out on one another with the belief this is what their parents desire for them to do. That is to show that I’m superior.”
This is very troubling for Black children who are socialized to believe that White is right and they are not socialized to attack Whiteness.
“We’ve always tried to figure out ways to accommodate White power, because of the ideology that if we just simply act a certain way, we can all get along,” said Dr. Washington. “This becomes a hurtful moment of psychological distress. Black children have been conditioned to believe that everything is fair, but in reality, it is not,” said Dr. Washington.