How to stand up to 4 kinds of bullies
Speaking to kids throughout the country about bullies provided a Stanton Heights writer insight and solutions while marking the 20th anniversary of her Disney book, “The Skin I’m In.”
Sharon Flake, 62, author of 10 books published by Disney, Scholastic and Boyds Mill Press, has toured the country reading and speaking to children about bullying, colorism and how they can find their voice.
“The Skin I’m In” was published long before there was great public focus on cyberbullying after it caused some tragic teenage suicides.
Flake’s book for young adults follows the story of Maleeka who is taunted by her classmates for the color of her skin - one of the darkest shades for an African-American.
“I’ve learned that everyone struggles in the skin they are in -- it crosses cultures, oceans and gender,” said Flake during a recent interview reflecting on her journey talking with young and older adults.
“Not only can teenagers bully each other but adults bully too,” she was quick to add.
Bullying is a part of human nature and will always be with us, Flake said. “But that doesn’t mean we are not going to fight it every step of the way,” she added.
Colorism is evident in a number of cultures, with lighter-skinned people perceived as more desirable. “It happens in India when some are picking their wives, wanting the fairest-skinned ones and it happens in Asian groups and Hispanics,” she said.
During her travels, Flake heard stories of bullying going way beyond skin coloring, including a white boy from Monroeville who was bullied for being overweight.
“Oh, so they don’t like your size,” Flake remembered telling the boy. “The skin you’re in doesn’t work for other people and they made it your problem.”
After Flake talked to more than 200,000 kids at schools all over the country and received thousands of letters, here are her descriptions of bullies and solutions to stop them.
There will always be children, or adults for that matter who will find a way to say “I’m better than you. I’m stronger than you and I’m going to make you do what I want,” said Flake.
Overt bullying: It’s the kids who talk about your shoes, your teeth, your clothes and your physical self. They make snide remarks. It’s also the kids in the auditorium or cafeteria “whispering and pointing at you.”
Some of these kids keep at the bullying and mount a campaign against you, Flake said. “A lot of bullies, they get kids alone and do things.”
Also included, are the girls who decide that another girl is not pretty.
Undercover bullying: “This happens a lot,” Flake said. “Somebody in your class is giving you this look, they’re always doing it. It’s done sly enough, maybe they will pinch or poke you. Bullies want to intimidate you - they want you not to speak up.”
Adult bullying: Teachers and parents can be guilty of bullying a child. “Educators call kids out in certain ways, sometimes threats are made to make a child feel little. Parents bully their kids “c’mon you’re so dumb,” Flake said.
Bullying by public humiliation: That’s when a bully wants to make sure that the world knows that someone is “less than” in their eyes, according to Flake.