If you are parenting a young equity advocate, this 30-second video is a must see:
Two-thirds of gifted students (cognitive outliers, creatives, empaths, change-makers, highly sensitives, etc. – pick whichever label suits you) have experienced bullying by eighth grade (Peterson, 2006), which is more than double the twenty-five to thirty percent of all school age children who report having been bullied by twelfth grade (StopBullying.gov, 2016).
Empathy is a paradoxical source of exceptional power and vulnerability. When children come wired with social justice genes, how do we teach them to put these genes to good use?
Upstander or Bystander?
A bystander (Latané and Darley) is someone who witnesses behavior causing harm to another and does nothing. The larger a group, the less likely a witness is to take action, either directly by intervening or indirectly by reporting to authorities.
In contrast, The Bully Project defines an upstander as “someone who recognizes something is wrong and acts to make it right.”
As parents, if we are bystanders, we teach children through our implicit messaging it is ok to hurt others. When we are upstanders, we teach children how to be socially responsible agents of change.
“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” ~Gandhi
The change-maker journey does not end after we stand up. It requires stamina. Alleviating someone’s suffering is an immediate reward, as is the internal knowledge of having done the right thing, but there are also inherent risks in activism. Are we willing to sacrifice relationships, our job, social and/or financial capital in the pursuit of justice? When we say, “Stop!” or cry “Ouch!” there will likely be people who do not like us and that is ok. As SENG founder, Dr. Jim Webb, shares in his Searching for Meaning presentation, “If I am getting along with certain people, I worry about myself!” The long-term benefits and ripple effects of activism outweigh short-term costs.
Stealth Social Bullying
Altruistic, transformational leaders will encounter obstacles – those who take action to affect positive change are often the next bullied. The more power those causing harm posses, the greater the potential rewards and risks. Illustrating patterns within change movements prepares children for the obstacles they will likely encounter along their path. Unlike physical or verbal bullying, social bullying is stealth and can create wounds just as deep. It is also an indicator of an unhealthy system or organization. What is social bullying? Stop Bullying defines social bullying (sometimes referred to as relational bullying) as behavior that involves hurting someone’s reputation or relationships. Social bullying includes:
- Leaving someone out on purpose
- Telling others not to be friends with someone
- Spreading rumors about someone
- Embarrassing someone in public
Not participating in social bullying and naming it when it happens in our communities will inspire and empower future social justice champions.
Equity Firebrands Unite!
We invite you to share your story here – what did you do the last time you witnessed an injustice? Inspire us!