Is it Bigotry or Ignorance?

One of my boys is hurting and I can’t do anything about it except support and be present for him.  Maybe my readers can make suggestions of how I can handle this dilemma.

Dwight’s “friends” enjoy cracking Jewish jokes.  It seems that they REALLY enjoy it.  They do it in his presence and when he’s not around.  They say them to him and to each other, and they text them and instagram them.  They have been doing it, off and on, for a few months, but the tempo is increasing.  The girls on his bus are tormenting him, telling jokes back and forth during the 15 minute ride home.  His friends even sometimes break out in a session of bigotry when they are all hanging out.  Yesterday, when they were shooting hoops, they ended up circling around him, telling jokes in rapid fire.  I think that was the straw that broke the camel’s back.  Dwight is losing his patience.  He is tired of waiting for them to get over their bigotry and leave him alone.  He only feels truly “safe” when his one Jewish friend is with him.  He likes his friends, though, and wants them to knock it off and realize that what they are doing is “not cool” and not ok.  He wants to be friends with them but does not want to be a target.

At first, when he initially told me what was going on, Dwight said they were just trying to be funny and he didn’t mind it.  He said he “could handle it.”  I explained to him that whether he minded or not, it’s not ok for people to make those jokes and that it means they are either bigoted or racist or ignorant, if not all three.  I know many of the boys’ parents and I think that if they knew this was going on, they’d be mortified and attempt to put a stop to it, but Dwight has sworn me to secrecy.  I understand his reluctance to rat out his friends to their parents and to name names at school.  No one wants to be seen as a snitch and it would likely make him more of a target.  His school is good in these situations, though, and I explained that there is a way they can help him without singling him out.  Teachers will say they overheard the jokes and work around having to say they heard it from him or me.  He asked me to wait, though.  He thinks if he spends more time with them and continues to tell them that what they are doing is racist and rude they will stop.  I told him I would respect his wishes but assured him that there are people who could work with us to make it stop.

I was happy to hear that there are a few standouts amongst the group who stand up for Dwight.  It nearly came to blows yesterday.  I encouraged Dwight to focus on spending time with those boys, rather than the others.  He said that he won’t be able to change the other guys’ behavior if he doesn’t spend time with them, so he wants to keep trying.  I really admire him for his persistence because I could see he was shaken when he got home from school today.

Do these kids truly believe the stereotypes they spout?  Do they really think what Hitler did is funny?  Or, are they just ignorant to the depth of what they are saying?  Will they realize their words do hurt as much as a fist?

Part of me is comforted by the fact that we are literally leaving the country and will put an ocean and continent between Dwight and his tormenters, I mean friends.  Horatio, though, wonders if we should not tell people we are Jewish.  He wants to protect the boys from the ignorance in the world.  I really don’t think that’s the answer or solution to the problem.  Dwight and his brothers should be proud of who they are, just like anyone else in the world.  They know that differences do not make us, or anyone, better or worse than anyone else.  I hope Dwight continues to love being who he is and that the bullying ends… before we flee the country.

Any insight, dear readers?



About Commander in Chief At home

Erin is a military spouse and, sometimes temporarily single mom to 4 boys. She's a parenting coach, writer, teacher, special needs (Autism) mom, and much more.
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3 Responses to Is it Bigotry or Ignorance?

  1. Jill says:

    I’m so sorry to hear this is going on. Dwight is showing great maturity for wanting to try to educate the bullies. My guess is that the boys who are telling these “jokes” are simply doing it to try to feel “superior” to Dwight or try to get a rise out of him. I don’t know too many boys Dwight’s age who really give a lot of thought to the consequences of their words or even much thought to what they say to each other (of course, this is a generalization on my part). But Dwight, clearly, has too much integrity and moral character simply to cave to their ridiculous behavior. Is there a way for the school to remind all the students about bullying and how it takes many forms and how it is NOT acceptable? Could Dwight help spearhead an antii-bullying program at school? That might help him feel (and be!) empowered and do something positive about this situation.

    As for not letting anyone know the boys are Jewish, I understand where Horatio is coming from, but in this country, we are all free to be who and what we are; that’s part of what Horatio has helped us preserve and defend through his military service. The boys should not hide who and what they are. Others should learn to accept differences and learn from them. Wish I had a magic wand to wave and make this situation go away. Do let me know if I can help in any way.


  2. Vicki says:

    It is so hard being a parent sometimes. Especially when your child is hurting and you have been sworn to secrecy. I feel really proud of Dwight. He is being so mature and grownup with his handling of the situation. I love that he is viewing it as a learning opportunity to teach his friends. I am amazed at the racism, bigotry and hatred being spewed by these kids. Where did they learn it from ? Surely the parents must know something. Hiding isn’t the solution. Your entire family are right to be proud of their heritage and their religion and who they are. It will be easier once you are back in an International School with the multitude of nationalities and cultures present. One question: Is the same thing happening to the Muslim students at the school ?


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