7:46 AM JCPS DEP 1 Comments

Dr. Muhammad Babar
It’s heartbreaking for any parent when his or her child comes home with stories of bullying at school, on the playground or elsewhere. Kids can indeed be cruel. And there are several circumstances or reasons that motivate that cruelty: to appear stronger than others in the class; to resist another child who may be of different racial or ethnic origin; to conceal a deep fear. Regardless of the reason, bullying causes long lasting mental and emotional scars to a child. Studies show link between bullying and mental health problems like serious depression,  poor school performance, low self esteem, substance abuse, increased risk of suicide and carrying weapons to school.

My ten year old twin boys are the loves of my life. They are my heart and my soul. I commit so much of my own time and resources addressing the societal injustices in our world because I want them to inherit a much better world than what I inherited at their age. Sadly, not too long ago, I was reminded that there is much work to be done when my boys felt unassured and unsettled to their Muslim heritage as if their faith was being tested.
Apparently some of the other children at school took exception to their Muslim heritage, and, as their father, I had to reassure them that there is certainly nothing “wrong” with being Muslims.  Further, they should feel sadness (not hatred) for those who picked on them. Ignorance breeds hostility, and hostility destroys the soul. It wasn’t the first time this has happened nor will it be the last time. My boys understand that racism is alive and well in our society, and that even those who aren’t racist can be wary of cultures and creeds different from their own.

But this latest instance compelled me to think. At that time, my boys were attending a school in a different school district – one that had a reputation as an outstanding school system but fell short in the ways of diversity. For all of my commitments to social justice advocacy, why did I have my children growing up in an academic community that sanitized itself from the rest of the world?

So, this past summer, my family and I moved to Jefferson County, where my children could live and learn from and among those who represented the larger world – not just one suburban neighborhood.

It is always fear of unknown that forces us to stereotype. We feel comfortable among people who look and speak like us. But our world is a beautiful garden of flowers of different colors that make it captivating. We all belong to one species Homo Sapiens and our blood is of one color, red.

Unfortunately there are forces out in our world that benefit from dividing us on the basis of race, religion, ethnicity and gender to advance their distorted agenda. Recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia remind us the importance of increasing awareness about islamophobia, anti semitism, racial and gender discrimination in our schools and communities.

Jefferson County Public Schools is a fantastic school system that is dedicated to the education of our community’s children and committed to its own improvement. It is quite evident as two years ago JCPS included gender expression and identity in its anti-discrimination and anti-bullying policy to render protections to transgender students. This year JCPS has passed Safe Haven Resolution to protect immigrant and potentially undocumented students and their families.

Do I think moving to JCPS will end any instances of racism-based bullying at school? Certainly not. But I am hopeful that the new environment that my children find themselves in will better lend itself to the notion that bullying of any kind is not acceptable and that they will see that there are many others in this world just like them. Others who will work with them to be advocates for peace and good stewards of the world they will inherit.

I am excited about what my children will accomplish in life, and I am happy that their interests and perspectives will be fostered in a system that offers a diverse and healthy learning environment.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you, Dr. Babar, for your commitment to making this world a better, kinder place. You cared for my dad in March, during his last days, and your compassion, care, and attention to him and all of us helped make that difficult time bearable. Kentucky is a better place because you and your family are part of it, and I'm grateful that my bi-cultural daughter (white American and S. Sudanese) will inherit a world that you have touched.