Written by Néhémie Bikin-kita
There are a variety of reasons why people bully others – it could be due to low self-esteem, a want to dominate others or perhaps because they are being bullied themselves. Sometimes the motivation for bullying comes from the prejudice one person has towards another. This is called prejudice-based bullying.
Prejudice-based bullying is any type of bullying based on protected characteristics such as race, sex, age or disability¹.
Respect for All (Scotland’s national approach to anti-bullying) gives the following definition for prejudice-based bullying: ‘Prejudice-based bullying is when bullying behaviour is motivated by prejudice based on an individual’s actual or perceived identity; it can be based on characteristics unique to [that person]’s identity or circumstance.’²
What are some forms of prejudice-based bullying?
🔶 Racial bullying
Persons from racial or ethnic minorities often experience prejudice based on perceived differences and preconceived notions about certain racial or ethnic groups. Racial bullying is any bullying in which a person is singled out specifically based on their ethnicity or perceived ethnicity.³ This kind of bullying originates from conscious or unconscious racial prejudice and/or racist thoughts that a person displaying bullying behaviour has towards the person suffering from bullying. Examples of racist bullying include using racially offensive language, mocking someone’s customs or traditions, or refusing to associate with someone because of their ethnicity.³
🔶 Sexist bullying
This type of bullying is largely based on gender stereotyping and the idea that men and women should look and act in a certain way⁴. Because of this stereotypical view of masculine and feminine roles, any behaviours that fall outside of these limits are deemed unacceptable and met with unfavourable treatment. Examples of sexist bullying include sexualised name-calling, inappropriate sexual innuendos and unwelcome comments about one’s appearance.⁴
🔶 Homophobic bullying
This type of bullying occurs when a person is targeted because of their actual or perceived sexual identity⁵. This may happen because of certain traits the individual has which leads the person exhibiting bullying behaviour to think that person is LGBTQ+, or because that person has friends or family who are LGBTQ+⁵. In this case, the bullying includes homophobic slurs and making uncomfortable/inappropriate comments about a person’s sexuality. It also intersects with sexual and sexist bullying, as the individual will be likely perceived as not conforming to gender stereotypes and thus be “called out” for this.
[Note: the above is far from an exhaustive list. There are many other protected characteristics and thus there are many other types of prejudice-based bullying (i.e. based on religious affiliation, residency status in a country, class/socioeconomic status, etc.). Moreover, prejudice-based bullying – as with bullying in general – can also be physical or occur online].
What are some ways to address prejudice-based bullying?
1️⃣ Make sure the bullying can be easily reported.⁶
This goes for all bullying situations, and in any institution or structure. The person suffering from bullying needs to know they have a place to turn to when this happens and needs to feel assured that the system in place is effective enough to deal with the bullying situation.
2️⃣ Create a culture that embraces diversity.⁶
This means creating a culture and environment in which diversity is respected and celebrated and in which it is clear that discrimination will not be tolerated. This also includes teaching empathy and increasing people’s knowledge of other cultures. This championing of diversity should be led by people in seats of influence or of power, such as teachers, employers, heads of states and more.
3️⃣ Empower the people suffering from bullying.⁶
This means making sure that all individuals know and understand what their rights are, and know whom to turn to when help is needed. It also includes empowering people to stand up to bullying (i.e. to say no to any inappropriate touch or to walk away from any uncomfortable situation).
“The rising anti-bullying tide will lift all boats, however when the target of bullying is a child who is already discriminated against or is in a minority that leaves them open to discrimination, then that situation requires additional focus⁷.” – Sticks & Stones Anti-Bullying Programme
¹ Equality and Human Rights Commission. (2019). How can we stop prejudice-based bullying in schools? [online]. Available at: https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/en/advice-and-guidance/how-can-we-stop-prejudice-based-bullying-schools&ved=2ahUKEwjo7b3i3NnpAhUht3EKHf8xCM8QFjAAegQIBxAC&usg=AOvVaw1fWW-MFmAmRhMbXfx1W78W [Accessed 29 May 2020].
² The Scottish Government. (2017). Respect for All: a national approach to anti-bullying. [online]. https://www.gov.scot/publications/respect-national-approach-anti-bullying-scotlands-children-young-people/pages/2/ [Accessed 29 May 2020].
³ The Northern Ireland Anti-Bullying Forum. (2019). Racist Bullying. [online]. http://www.endbullying.org.uk/what-is-bullying/prejudice-based-bullying/racial-bullying/ [Accessed 29 May 2020].
⁴ Department for Children, Schools and Families. (2009). Guidance for schools on preventing and responding to sexist, sexual and transphobic bullying. [online]. https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=https://www.anti-bullyingalliance.org.uk/sites/default/files/field/attachment/sst-guidance-quick-guide.pdf&ved=2ahUKEwil5Yr0y9npAhXwXhUIHULZDqwQFjACegQIBBAC&usg=AOvVaw0-3-ao-t_GPHm5UrwATBEF [Accessed 29 May 2020].
⁵ Bullying UK. (n.d.). What is homophobic bullying? [online]. https://www.bullying.co.uk/general-advice/what-is-homophobic-bullying/ [Accessed 29 May 2020].
⁶ Equality and Human Rights Commission. (2019). How can we stop prejudice-based bullying in schools? [online]. https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/en/advice-and-guidance/how-can-we-stop-prejudice-based-bullying-schools [Accessed 29 May 2020].
⁷ Sticks & Stones Anti-Bullying Programme. (n.d.). Prejudice based bullying. [online]. https://www.sticksandstones.ie/bullying/alterophobic-based-bullying/ [Accessed 29 May 2020].
bBrave chooses to avoid using the words ‘bully’ and ‘victim’ as bullying cases may be very complex. An individual may very well fall into both categories, and labelling individuals with these categories tend to negatively affect the lives of these people.
bBrave is the first anti-bullying NGO in Malta. Its mission is to raise awareness on the different forms of bullying, to facilitate assistance for individuals suffering from bullying and for the reform of individuals displaying bullying behaviour in Malta.
The Organisation is registered with the Commissioner for Voluntary Organisations (VO 1422), the Registrar for Legal Persons (LPA-118), and Aġenzija Żgħażagħ (AZ 252/2017). bBrave is also a Core Member of the Anti-Bullying Alliance (ABA), the international coalition of organisations and individuals that are united against bullying.