We must stand up to bullying


Bullying is real and pervasive in society today, often driven by the divisive nature of our current political paradigm. Authentic claims of bullying must not be de-legitimized. Step forward unapologetically to oppose inequities in our communities and stakeholders who harbor bias. Leaders seeking to dismantle current systems of inequity frequently become targets of bullying.

Advocacy, and the building of a viable movement to reach your goals, is a worthy endeavor for change agents to combat inequities. Demonizing your presumed foes is not. There are practical alternatives to find justice and advocate for policy changes — traditional avenues to influence power are the correct routes. Voting, and supporting others who share your views, are the first steps to lasting change.

Engaging in a debate over facts isn’t bullying, for those on either side. Accusing someone of bullying you to end the discussion is an admission that your own argument is weak. Name-calling diminishes the veracity of any term correctly applied.

Bullying is the unfair and unreasonable application of power to the detriment of the marginalized — the group without power — but that’s a shifting and subjective standard. Bullying accusations, in practice, can be used as a tool of the privileged unethical to obtain an advantage.

The misapplication of the term bullying has reached epidemic proportions in our society. This has stifled public debate, to the detriment of our First Amendment right to freedom of speech. Failure to cite facts diverts from an authentic debate. Tactically misleading accusations of bullying from the privileged, who did not help the marginalized for decades, hurt all who have been truly adversely affected.

Having objective standards, equally applied, is not bullying; objective standards are a component of equity. Failing to meet the clearly defined standards, and then blaming people working within the system of bullying you, is in fact slander. When false accusations are misapplied, that constitutes bullying of the manager or supervising public servant. Legitimate claims within organizations should be filed by those aggrieved and fully supported by senior management, but false claims hurt us all.

When a rule is legally enacted by a governmental entity, you have not been bullied; you are in fact a member of a functioning democracy. When correctly applied practices are ignored for the benefit of one person or organization, that is improper, and a form of bullying against those not so empowered.

Therefore, if you, and those who agree with your position, had the unobstructed right to participate in the process, you were not bullied. You can only legitimately claim that an injustice was done if your ability to vote, or to take part in the process, was obstructed in some way by competing interests.

Citizens have the right to be heard and respected. We cannot, and should not, take away anyone’s right to speak. That can sometimes be painful, but that is the price of a free society. What we can, and should, do is not empower those who use their speech and political might to adversely impact ethical citizens. While we have no right to stop their speech, we do have the choice of not tacitly supporting their malice through our silence.

Recalcitrant people do not need to remain our friends or have unfiltered access to our personal space. Quietly accepting the unacceptable creates the perception that you are sympatico with their beliefs. They have a right to speak, but we all have the responsibility to stand for equity. Leaders who accept malice against the ethical for political expediency may forfeit their moral authority.

The remedy for not prevailing in an argument, for initially not succeeding in an endeavor or for losing an election, is not to rail against anyone who does not agree with you. Present a better argument based on facts, focus on improving based on the objective criteria, and vote after objectively reviewing the positions presented. People on the opposite side of these actions need to focus on the humanity behind these situations and do better as well.

Respect free speech, including speech with which you disagree. Debate with facts, but do not attack the right of others to hold their opinions. Attacking free speech is the most prevalent form of intimidation that exists today — and yes, that is bullying.