For whatever reason, I’ve noticed that we as a society see racists as adults. Teenagers, let alone children, couldn’t possibly be grouped in the same lot as the wrinkled mugshots of Neo-Nazis plastered across the news. But the more you think about it, the more it makes sense. I’ll elaborate – most everyone’s fixin’ to procreate right? Even the racists. And so an heirloom of discrimination has been passed down generations, gaining more of a foothold with each pass. The fact of the matter is that racism still exists, teenagers can be racist, and the high school experience can and will suffer because of it.
If you have to deal with racial discrimination in school, then you know how difficult it is to focus on school and friends when you’re also constantly looking over your shoulder for unwarranted discrimination. I can’t say that there’s an end-game solution to the festering racism in America, but I do have advice from my personal experience. I’m of Pakistani descent in a predominantly Hispanic area – to many of my peers I was brown, just not the right kind of brown. There were even girls who made fun of my inability to speak fluent Spanish – who does that? This is the first reality about racism that I realized at a young age – racists are illogical beings that were raised to fear the unknown.
But that doesn’t necessarily give you a free pass to feel superior over them – a recent Israeli study suggests that babies have a predisposition to like those that look more like them. It makes sense from an evolutionary standpoint – stick to your own because blood is thicker than water. But then, you may be thinking, why isn’t everyone racist? Science just proved that right? Here’s the second reality of racism – we are an inherently discriminatory race, but it’s more that likely brought to light by the environment you’re raised in. It’s unlikely that your racist high schoolers make a daily conscious decision to hate on you – they probably just grew up in an environment that promoted it. So how do you make them stop if that’s all they’ve ever known?
In my experience there’s been three approaches that could work – ignore them, educate them, and/or report them. These solutions depend on where the bully’s folly lays – they’re looking for attention, ignorant, and/or sadistic.
If they’re renowned for picking fights and starting heated debates but are otherwise a “good kid,” then it’s likely that they feed off of conflict – conflict that they could find with you. If this sounds like the case for you, consider just plainly ignoring them. If they can’t find a fight with you, hopefully they’ll look somewhere else.
If you live in a community that has few minorities (as was the case for me) then consider hosting some kind of Q&A with the community or just simply sitting down with the bully and having a talk. For example, I remember having to give a talk to my middle school friends because they continuously made “Muslims are terrorists” jokes around me. I gave them an ultimatum – stop making the jokes or stop calling me a friend.
If the racial harassment has escalated to a level where you feel like you have no control, or feel unsafe, then report it to the school or even the police. You have a right to live your life without fearing for it, so don’t worry about seeming “uncool.” Racial discrimination is bullying, and there’s no place for bullying in your life. If you ever feel alone or like all hope is lost, utilize social media! There are many online support groups on Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook that can help you and care about your happiness – and I do too.