By Avesta Alani, National Youth Council
We all know what bullying looks like; at least we think
we know what bullying looks like. Whether it is having insults thrown at you,
rumors spread about you, or physically threatened or hit, these are all
malicious forms of bullying. However, there is another discrete form of
bullying, more hidden, and one that many may not even consider to be
Ignoring someone, not acknowledging their existence, avoiding
contact with someone can be the most hurtful form of bullying, one that strikes
right at a person's dignity. Dismissing one’s existence could be considered a
passive form of bullying.
Sometimes it is hard to spot this kind of bullying. If
you are literally going out of your way to avoid someone, or stay out of
contact with someone, that passive act of bullying is more active than one may
My friend, Makita Philips was a very social, outgoing,
and friendly girl when she first attended her high school in Grand Prairie,
Alberta. However, at the age of 17, she
suffered severe optic nerve damage, and permanently lost her sight.
“My friends began to dissipate around me,” Makita says.
“No one would call me back, text me, or talk to me in the hallways
anymore.” When Makita losing her vision,
people felt the need to avoid her and drop contact. Perhaps this is because people are not used
to being around with people with disabilities, but that is no excuse to ignore
a person existence.
When I asked Makita about this she said, "I felt bad
about myself. I thought, am I really that bad of a person? Why does no one want
to say 'Hi' to me?" Makita recalls scenarios
where she knew the person around her, called out there name several times, and
either received no response, or a muttered, "Hi," as the person
Her friend's actions left Makita feeling insecure about
herself and question her own worth. However, Makita also thought something else
that may be the cause. "Maybe people did
not want to be identified as the ‘blind girl’s friend'," she says.
Makita is still the same outgoing, friendly, and funny
girl has she was before. Vision loss didn't change her personality, something
we should remember in schools, workplaces and our community. A disability is
not a person’s determinate factor; it is a part of a person yes, but it is not everything
that person is.
“I realized after high school, when I met more mature
individuals, that none of the things I thought were true," says Makita.
"I am a good person, and people can have a nice time around me.” Makita says
she has new friends now she is in college.
If you are to take away one thing from Makita's story, let
it be this: Whether a person has a disability or not, everyone should be
recognized as having human dignity.
A simple hello to a lonely person, or a short text back
to an old friend, could go a long way for that person. There is more to
bullying than picking out someone from the crowd and hurting them, sometimes it’s
not even letting them in as a member of the crowd in the first place.
And that can hurt even more.