Sunday, September 30, 2012

Confronting Bullies Often Reverses the Hate

Two stories I saw recently illustrate how confronting bullies works. At least sometimes.

The first instance could have turned out like a version of "Carrie,".the Stephen King novel and subsequent movie about how mean kids set up a girl they disliked as a joke homecoming queen, with incredible grisly results.
Michigan homecoming queen Whitney Kropp

In the Michigan case, there was no blood, no teleportation, no insane mothers,  no fires, no weirdness, no deaths, like in "Carrie." Things worked out much better than that in Whitney Kropp's town of West Branch, Michigan,

 Kropp, 16,  was picked by classmates as homecoming queen. Sounds nice, until it turned out that she was pranked by bullies. They picked her as queen not so she could actually be the centerpiece of the homecoming, but as an excuse to harass her, according to NBC News.

"I felt like I wasn't worthy. Why even be part of this community, this world, if I'm just going to be tossed around like basically a piece of trash," Kropp asked.

Then the tide turned. Eventually, the joke was on the bullies. Kropp's friends and supporters decided if she was going to be homecoming queen, she was going to be a legitimate one, and a glorious one at that.

Friends and people in town rallied around her, people donated hairstyling, a dress, dinner, etc., her boyfriend happily took her to the homecoming dance and Kropp was a damn good homecoming queen, by all accounts. 

And I bet the people who started the "joke" really felt like idiots after all this.   Talk about a backfire. The whole incident proves that if enough people confront a bully, things can turn out for the best.

A second, even better example of this came  when sombody posted on Reddit a photo of a Sikh woman with facial hair, in an effort to ridicule her appearance. 

Siks do not alter their bodies because their religion teaches them that their bodies are a perfect gift from God and ought not be altered. 

The Sikh woman who was the target of the somewhat snarky photographer and the haters who posted nasty stuff about her saw all this on Reddit. In a display of strength and graces, she responded thusly, as reported by The Daily What:
Balpreet Kaur

"Hey, guys. This is Balpreet Kaur, the girl from the picture. ... I'm not embarrased or even humiliated by the attention [negative and positve] that this picture is getting because, it's who I am.

Yes, I'm a baptized Sikh woman with facial hair. Yes, I realize that my gender is often confused and I look different than most women.

However, baptized Sikhs believe in the sacredness of this body - it is a gift that has been given to us by the Divine Being [which is genderless, actually] and, must keep it intact as a submission to the divine will. Just as a child doesn't reject the gift of his/her parents, Sikhs do not reject the body that has been given to us. ...

My attitude and thoughts and actions have more value in them than my body because I recognize that this body is just going to become ash in the end, so why fuss about it?

When I die, no one is going to remember what I looked like, heck, my kids will forget my voice, and slowly, all physical memory will fade away. However, my impact and legacy will remain: and, by not focusing on the physical beauty, I have time to cultivate those inner virtues and hopefully, focus my life on creating change and progress for this world in any way I can. ...

I appreciate all of the comments here, both positive and less positive because I've gotten a better understanding of myself and others from this."

I do not think I've ever read a more impressive response to bullying than this.  Kaur appears from the picture to be a young woman, so the world is likely to benefit from her wisdom for decades to come.

The photographer who took the picture of Balpreet Kaur and posted it on Reddit saw Kaur's message.  Humanity wins again. Here was his response:

"I know that this post ISN'T a funny post but I felt the need to apologize to the Sikhs, Balpreet, and anyone else I offended when I posted that picture. Put simply it was stupid. Making fun of people is funny to some but incredibly degrading to the people you're making fun of. It was an incredibly rude, judgmental, and ignorant thing to post. ...

I've read more about the Sikh faith and it was actually really interesting. It makes a whole lot of sense to work on having a legacy and not worrying about what you look like. I made that post for stupid internet points and I was ignorant.

So reddit I'm sorry for being an a**hole and for giving you negative publicity. Balpreet, I'm sorry for being a closed minded individual. You are a much better person than I am Sikhs, I'm sorry for insulting your culture and way of life. Balpreet's
faith in what she believes is astounding ."

A lot of people who are mean or bully surely don't stop and think about the humanity of the people they're targeting. It's easy to go down that route. The words, pictures, videos and images you see on line are abstractions. I know I don't always see through that to understand the people involved have lives, emotions, feelings, contributions to make, hurt moments to heal, joy to share.

To me, it's actually OK sometimes to criticize, pick on somebody who willfully does something stupid, mean, close minded or destructive. I do it all the time. Almost all of us do. Yet, it's also useful to offer the people we don't like a chance to redeem themselves.

It's even more important to let people who don't deserve the hate to let themselves shine, as Kropp and especially Kaur did.

Meanwhile, I found a riveting account on on how a man and his family were terrorized by an Internet troll, an assault that included death threats. It's a really good read, so go for it.

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