Discussions in our Equity and Inclusion module about power and identity, and the systemic nature and dynamics of social marginalization such as homophobia, sexism and racism are the basis of this section.
Attitudes and beliefs can constitute “internal” obstacles when they are absorbed by those they target. Those presented here are understood as internalized discrimination or inequity as experienced by individual parents and caregivers. Such attitudes and beliefs prevent them from working with schools to prevent bullying and promote equity and inclusion or to support their children through a bullying situation.
The Equity and Inclusion module explores discriminatory attitudes and beliefs that are homophobic, racist and sexist. As many of us have observed, prejudice and discrimination against people based on social class (or “classism”) is also a reality in a good number of schools. Note that poverty and lower socioeconomic status may sometimes, but do not always intersect with lower education levels. For example, many newcomers may experience poverty, and yet have achieved very high levels of education.
A number attitudes and beliefs caused by internalized prejudice and discrimination can serve as barriers to working with marginalized parents and caregivers. Parents and caregivers may experience feelings of fear or anger related to systemic oppression and historical trauma including bullying; they may lack the necessary confidence to engage with the school around the prevention of bullying and inequity; they may internalize feelings of shame about their own or their child’s identity; and they may be reluctant to contact the school due to a fear of being excluded or looked down on, of being blamed or for making school life difficult for their child.
In some instances, these experiences can result in a denial of bullying, the need to ignore or minimize the seriousness of bullying and focus on survival. Parents and caregivers coping with the very tangible and real ramifications of marginalization may simply not have energy left to deal with their children’s problems at school, such as bullying and discrimination. This is even more likely when bullying or harassment are verbal or emotional in form as opposed to physical.