A walk home from school turns dark for a group of young Asian American students in October of 2009. What once was a mundane trek back home after a day of class, becomes a nightmare with traumatic long term effects. After a stressful day at school attempting to dodge the racially driven verbal and physical punches from their peers, 15-year-old Yang Dang, her sister and eight friends were attacked on their walk home from school in Philadelphia, Pa. Around 10 African American students who spent the day taunting and harassing these students followed them home after school and assaulted them. Multiple students ended up in the emergency room, some requiring surgery that would alter their lives forever.
Instances like this are becoming increasingly more common in schools. Approximately 28% of 12 to 18-year-old students claim to have been bullied at some point during their academic careers. With the integration of more and more immigrants, or “new Americans,” coming to America from their home countries, the amount of bullying seen in schools is out of control. Bullying directed towards students of the Asian American demographic, among many others, stems from things such as stereotypes and historical events. Any student who appears to be a bit “different” than the majority of the students around them tends to be more of a target than the “average” student, making new Americans prime bullying territory.
Muslim students are also faced with their specific set of name-calling and harassment. Because of the terrorist attacks of 9/11, Muslim children are often victims of harsh stereotypes and threats, even though these individuals likely had absolutely nothing to do with those attacks nor agree with the actions taken that day. Even teachers in some cases have been reported to take part in making racial slurs directed at Muslims. In California alone, 52% of Muslim students said they’ve been the victim of anti-Muslim bullying.
Students who are put into these situations ranging from being excluded from peer groups to physical violence are sometimes forced to suffer in silence, due to factors that are out of their control. These factors include the language barrier that may remain between the student and the faculty at their school. Not being able to accurately explain to an adult what is going on with you creates obvious problems, as a problem cannot be solved if those who are capable of solving it are unaware that a problem exists in the first place.
Additionally, only 42% of Muslim students report receiving any kind of help or relief through seeking help from a teacher or other faculty member. Another factor is that these students often have parents who are dealing with their own set of day to day problems. Like the overall pressure that they are under to find and keep a job that provides them enough income to care properly for their families, strict work schedules that leave them with little to no time to sit down and have a conversation with their child who is struggling, or if they do have the time, due to cultural standards that vary between cultures, it may be advised from parent to child to just learn to tolerate the bullying.
Not only are students such as Yang Dang left with the horrifying memories of their bullying experiences, but some are even diagnosed later in life with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) due to the nature of their pasts. Other mental illnesses like depression, anxiety and being socially withdrawn can be brought on through these experiences.
Luckily, these events aren’t being completely ignored. Many organizations have taken a stand to create campaigns and awareness for these types of issues in America.