There are so many things happening right now! Martin Luther King Jr. Day was yesterday. There are many wonderful organizations that have decided to use his legacy to remind us to be a better, kinder, more tolerant, more just, & loving society.
I love GLSEN! They do SO much for gay & lesbian youth. This week, they are promoting “No Name-Calling Week.” http://www.glsen.org/nonamecallingweek . It is an effort to help stop bullying, primarily in schools.
Let me talk about bullying for just a minute. I am not a fan of bullying, but many of the zero tolerance, anti-bullying campaigns have been backfiring the past couple of years. (Remember what happened with the DARE program of our era?) If you put an all encompassing umbrella over bullying, give it a lot of publicity, & then make a zero tolerance policy….you draw attention, sometimes to things that kids weren’t even thinking of & you sometimes give existing & potential bullies ideas.
The zero tolerance policy means that your own policy forces you to punish kids for behavior that doesn’t warrant the punishment simply because if you don’t, you’re not following policy. I don’t think that it’s okay to allow children to be mean to each other. I do think though that, depending on the situation, there is a certain amount of age appropriate push & pull that goes on between kids & youth. That is not the same as being mean, but with these “zero tolerance” bullying rules that schools are making, it doesn’t allow for normal behavior. We can’t expect everyone to always act “just so,” a little push in line, not wanting to sit next to the stinky kid, not wanting the kid who is really bad at math on your team during a math drill DOESN’T make you a bully! It makes you a normal, age appropriate kid. Should the teacher tell you that you get what you get? YES. Should the lunch lady yell out, “No pushing in line!” from behind the counter? YES. Should someone remind your kid that it’s not nice to call that kid “stinky”? ABSOLUTELY, should that same someone call the stinky kid’s parent’s & investigate why he’s so stinky ABSOLUTELY.
I think focusing on one aspect of bullying, like GLSEN’s No Name-Calling Week. is a nice way to handling it. You aren’t teaching these kids a new behavior. Kids have known how to name call since they were 2 years old! Focusing instead on how that behavior effects people, what that feels like (even for adults), instead of talking about bullying as if it’s 1 act, 1 punishment…that’s something I can get behind.
Many UU’s around the world are jumping on board with Standing on the Side of Love’s “30 Days of Love” campaign.
Day 1 was Saturday, January 18th. I cut & pasted below what it says on their site for week 1:
“Week One: Living the Dream
Sunday, Jan. 19: Suggested worship service themes include honoring Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and recommitting to racial justice work.
What to Expect: Kick off the week with MLK Day and set aside time for congregational self-examination and reflection. Look for resources on furthering your racial justice work.”
I think I can do both of these campaigns easily together! Living in small town Montana, you’d be surprised how many racial slurs, comments, & names one still hears (especially when people are talking politics, it seems).
I vow, to do my part to not only not “name call” (which is a rule in my home anyway, one that I only seem to break when speaking of myself…), but to be verbal when I hear others. That takes care of GLSEN. For my UU contribution this week, I’m going to concentrate my ears on those racial slurs, jokes, & “name calls” that I hear when I’m out & about. I am a small woman & usually when I hear these things it is a group of men speaking (although not always) & my habit has been to give a look, much like a disappointed mother or school teacher would give a disobedient child.
I vow to use my voice this week. I will speak on behalf of my children (& others’ children) who don’t deserve to hear it. I’ll be honest, we are a mostly white community, but that is no excuse to allow the racially ignorant folks in our community to feel like they run it.
This is my commitment to my faith community, my family, GLSEN, Dr Martin Luther King Jr, & most importantly…to myself.