In her discussion of how the thinking implicit in schoolyard bullying can lead to hate crimes and genocide, Coloroso (2014) highlights the ways in which bullying is a learned behavior. “Bullying is not a conflict,” she states. “Conflict is normal, natural, and necessary. Bullying is none of that. Bullying is a conscious, willful, deliberate, hostile activity intended to harm, where you get pleasure from somebody else’s pain … It’s utter contempt for another human being” (Coloroso, 2014). If it is not normal and natural, then, it must come from somewhere. The ways of thinking and acting that lead to bullying can be learned through the traditional agents of socialization: family, teachers, peers, and media. Bullies and perpetrators of hate crimes not only learn their behaviors, but exist within a social network of henchman, active supporters, passive onlookers, and disengaged onlookers, according to Coloroso (2014).
Coloroso (2014) speaks briefly of her concerns regarding media content and the degree to which children are exposed to virtual violence, saying “Whether it is real or imagined in our lives, it impacts us.” In seeing people hurt others, whether through words or actions, in movies or video games, it opens up possible modes of behavior that may not have naturally occurred to a child. Coloroso (2014) worries about what happens when the conceivable becomes real, as well as the “The routinization of cruelty” that is created and perpetuated by media and may be translated into real life. Bullying is not an isolated event: it is an ongoing process of negative and unsolicited behaviors acted out by the perpetrator on a target, behaviors that can quickly become routine.
Also a factor in the socialization of bullying is subtle behavior in word or deed by parents and other family members that surround children. By speaking of or acting in a way that makes people who are in some way different into an object – an “other,” an “it” – it opens up the potential for treating them as something less than a human being. This is a condition that Coloroso (2014) argues make both bullying and genocide possible: “The dehumanization of another human being.” Bullying involves harassment of the target on the basis of perceived inadequacies or defects. These could relate to appearance, sexual activity or orientation, gender, class, race, disability, religious belief, or any other characteristic, real or imagined. When someone is made into an “it” or “other” through such differentiation, all manner of abuse can be perpetrated on them with seeming justification.
TEDx. (2014, Feb. 20). From school yard bullying to genocide: Barbara Coloroso at TEDxCalgary [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zkG0nssouFg