Indian American and Asian American organizations, joined the White House in launching a public awareness campaign to address bullying in the middle of National Bullying Prevention Month. The “Act To Change” public awareness campaign was launched by the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, Sikh Coalition and Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment to empower Asian American and Pacific Islander youth, educators and communities with information and tools to address and prevent the problem.
The Initiative, co-chaired by Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Surgeon General of the United States Dr. Vivek Murthy and led by Ahuja, is housed within the U.S. Department of Education. “The ‘Act To Change’ campaign, and the strong coalition behind it, is a critical and necessary step forward for empowering our communities to stand up against bullying,” Sapreet Kaur, Sikh Coalition executive director, said in a statement.
“Bullying is a major civil rights issue for the Asian American and Pacific Islander community in particular,” Initiative executive director Kiran Ahuja said in a statement. “We’ve seen too often AAPI groups, including Sikh, Muslim, Micronesian, LGBT, and limited English-proficient youth, targeted for bullying and harassment.”
Sikhs have become the poster child for this pervasive problem in post 9/11 classrooms, largely because of their articles of faith. The Sikh Coalition’s 2014 national bullying report found that 67% of turbaned Sikh children in varying U.S. communities have been bullied.
“The bullying of Sikh children is an epidemic,” said the Sikh Coalition’s Law and Policy director Arjun Singh. “Misinformation and misunderstanding regarding the Sikh faith, coupled with a dramatic increase in bigoted dialogue towards religious minorities, has resulted in intolerance and bullying in our schools.”
The campaign website, ActToChange.org, and its social media tag #ActToChange, provide AAPI youth and community members with platforms to share their stories, engage in dialogue around bullying awareness and prevention, and “Take the Pledge” to join the #ActToChange movement.
Video testimonials, music playlists, and blog stories provide messages of empowerment and support from AAPI athletes, artists, entertainers, and community members. As one in three AAPIs does not speak English fluently, the campaign offers resources in multiple languages: Hindi, Punjabi, Urdu, Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese.
Campaign partners will host a live event in Los Angeles, Calif., at the Japanese American National Museum Nov. 21. The public event will feature armchair dialogues and performances with distinguished personalities and community members. Prior to the event, OCA – Asian Pacific American Advocates, a national civil rights organization — will host high school advocacy training, expanding upon its existing “APA Y-Advocate” program to include a bullying prevention curriculum.
Maulik Pancholy, a member of the President’s Advisory Commission on AAPI, said, “Growing up, sometimes people made me feel like an outsider; I was the perfect storm of nerdy, gay and Indian American,” in discussing the campaign. “But now, I’ve come to find that those very things that were sometimes used as fodder against me are the things I love the most about myself,” he wrote in a White House blog post.
“I have the privilege to be connected to amazing communities of incredible people: people who know that it’s actually cool to nerd out about stuff, who celebrate the strength and joy of what it means to identify as LGBT, and who appreciate the rich cultural heritage of being Indian American.”
“It’s okay to be weird, but it’s NOT okay to be bullied,” said Pancholy, noting: “Every day, kids of all ages suffer from being bullied in schools across the country.” In the AAPI community, this problem is often complicated by cultural, religious and linguistic barriers that can keep AAPI youth from getting the help they need, he said.
“And we’ve seen that certain AAPI groups — including South Asian, Muslim, Sikh, Micronesian and limited English proficient youth — are more likely to be the targets of bullying,” Pancholy wrote.