In light of the recent government shutdown, it is understandable for the public to view Congress as dysfunctional and unable to compromise, but I want to share with you a bipartisan issue that we do agree on—stopping bullying. The bullying epidemic affects all Americans: students, parents, the elderly and other community members. No one is immune. Because October is National Bullying Prevention Month, I wanted to share what Congress is doing to address this critical issue.
Bullying is something that is, unfortunately, not a foreign experience to many individuals, including myself. As a Japanese-American born at the height of World War II, I was placed in an internment camp before I could walk or talk. I know, firsthand, the pains of institutional discrimination, which contributed to the severe interpersonal bullying I endured later in life. For many years after the war, I endured confrontations and insults from my peers solely because of my ethnicity. I had a few courageous friends, however, who transcended the discriminatory norms of the time. Their support, together with the wisdom and guidance from my parents, helped me realize some powerful and liberating truth: Japanese-Americans had been treated unjustly—bullied by the U.S. government—because of “war hysteria, racial prejudice and a failure of political leadership” at the highest levels of leadership. I came to understand that our nation’s founding principles support a more inclusive America, respectful of sex, gender, ethnicity, ability, sexual orientation, race, political philosophy and age.
As an educator of more than 30 years and a member of Congress who faced institutional discrimination and was bullied as a child, I am inspired to advocate for fighting the bullying epidemic. That’s why I founded the Congressional Anti-Bullying Caucus with members of Congress from both sides of the aisle in 2012. This group was formed to raise awareness of the issue and to be a forum for individuals and advocates from private-sector organizations and non-profit agencies, educators, students and everyday individuals, along with members of Congress, to proactively address issues of bullying.
As researchers and practitioners, many of you are on the frontlines of creating the knowledge base for this issue. I am grateful for all your work. Now I want to challenge you to begin to think of forging new partnerships with non-academic, non-traditional partners in order to translate this research into practice. For instance, I have been working with organizations like the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, Common Sense Media and the Family Online Safety Institute to bring bullying prevention programs to my home district in California and to other members’ districts. These organizations have developed evidence-based bullying prevention programs in conjunction with psychologists. To successfully change the culture of our society to be bully-free will require the efforts of all us working together; research informing practice, which in turn influences policy. Researchers, clinicians, advocates and policymakers should be natural partners in this process. I encourage you to reach out to your communities and your local, state and/or federal elected officials to start the conversation.
U.S. Congressman Michael Honda represents the 17th Congressional District of California and has served in the U.S. House of Representatives for over twelve years. In Congress, Rep. Honda is a member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, Chair Emeritus of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, Co-chair of the Democratic Caucus’ New Media Working Group, and House Democratic Senior Whip.