Hey bullies, be careful who you pick on!
By Eli Zaret, guest blogger
To Kenneth Krause in La Crosse, Wisconsin, “Thank you.” October is National Bullying Prevention Month, and you have given everyone in the anti-bullying movement a perfect teaching moment. Your timing is impeccable, and your thinly veiled bullying words couldn’t have been expressed more perfectly. You are clearly an educated person, utilizing good grammar and sentence structure. Most likely, your intention was to promote and encourage healthy lifestyles. Instead, you are now, most deservedly, the new face of the nationwide backlash against bullying.
Jennifer Livingston is the morning host at Channel 8, WKBT, a CBS station in La Crosse Wisconsin. Here’s what the above mentioned viewer, Krause, wrote:
“Hi Jennifer, It’s unusual that I see your morning show, but I did so for a very short time today. I was surprised indeed to witness that your physical condition hasn’t improved for many years. Surely you don’t consider yourself a suitable example for this community’s young people, girls in particular.”
Unlike the millions kids who are hurt daily and in many cases, permanently by bullies, Jennifer is a grown-up and was able to take the fight public with a self-effacing and mature response.
“The truth is: I am overweight,” she stated on her morning show. “You could call me fat and, yes, even obese on a doctor’s chart, but to the person who wrote me that letter – do you think I don’t know that? That your cruel words are pointing out something that I don’t see? You don’t know me. You are not a friend of mine. You are not a part of my family. And you have admitted that you don’t watch this show. So you know nothing about me but what you see on the outside. And I am much more than a number on the scale. If you are at home and talking about the fat news lady, guess what: Your children are probably going to go to school and call someone fat.”
The lesson here is that words matter as much or more than a punch in the face.
I was a nightly sports anchor for 15 of my 35 years in broadcasting. Detroit is over 60 times the size of La Crosse and I developed a thick skin to criticism, and trust me, I heard my share. But like Jennifer Livingston, I’m and adult and was able to consider the source. At times, even if it was poorly delivered, some of the criticism was valid and I learned from it. Sadly, children can’t do this and can be scarred for life by the words and actions of bullies. Some even take their own lives when their self-esteem becomes repeatedly crushed.
This month, in conjunction with “Defeat the Label,” New Oakland, along with 98.7, Amp radio, will tour metro area schools and address assemblies. The goal is to teach kids to not stand idly by when they witness bullying and to stand up to bullies, who comprise about 6-8% of most student bodies.
The bully who wrote to Jennifer Livingston was able to cleverly veil her hatred and aggressiveness. As Livingston suggests, the writer’s children probably won’t use euphemisms like “physical condition.” They might point a finger among a giggling crowd of co-conspirators and humiliate another youngster by saying, “You’re fat and ugly.”
We’ll explain all of this to the school kids we address. We’ll encourage them to stand up to bullying, for the sake of both the victims and the bullies. Bullies often learn by what they see at home. We hope that Krause’s kids in La Crosse evolve into more sensitive adults than their dad.