Society

Overcoming Bullying as a Latino Muslim

I am a Latino who also happens to be Muslim, which is still somewhat of an anomaly here in the U.S. People in school used to think that I was Mexican and when I told them that I was half Puerto Rican and half Ecuadorian, they still called me Mexican just to annoy me. My peers could not make fun of my religion because they were also Muslims, so they targeted my background instead. Ever since I was in school, all the kids called me Mexican and asked me if I had my visa, and many other racist comments like that. I used to be called names for other things such as the clothes that I wore and the food I ate, because I was Latino. I was always the class target of name-calling.

One day I wore a sweatshirt that my uncle designed for his Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu school, called Rollstar. The sweatshirt had one of my uncle’s slogans on it: “No egos; stay humble,” which to me meant that we should never be arrogant. Ironically, that became the next object of ridicule. My classmates used to say the slogan with a Japanese accent and make fun of Jiu-Jitsu as a martial art. They did not know anything about the Jiu-Jitsu sport, so they just kicked their legs in the air and pretended to punch as if it was some form of karate. They said that “No egos; stay humble” had become a meme now that I wore it. Despite that, I still wore the sweatshirt with pride.

I did not care if they made fun of me, although sometimes it did get on my nerves. Eventually, I got tired of it and told them to stop. At that time, they stopped calling me names. However, the next day, they started again. These incidents remind me of the quote: “Why try to do right if people will always look at me and assume wrong?” When I tried to tell them to stop, they made even more fun of me. They thought I was a wimp. They even called me a wimp, but in my mind, I knew that I could defeat them if I chose. They even went as far as verbally attacking my family and insulting my parents. They called my father weak and poked fun of him because of his height. I firmly told them to stop again. While they stopped insulting my parents, they continued insulting me.

This boy in my class, who happened to be on social media, made a live video of himself mocking me and calling me bad names. He did not get in trouble even though I told the teachers at school. Then I tried to take matters into my own hands, which turned out to be a big mistake. I made a drawing of me beating him up. My friend posted a picture of it on social media. I guess the boy who started it saw the post and told the teachers. My friend and I both got in trouble. Surprisingly, the one who started the whole mess did not get in trouble at all. There was a rumor that it was because at my school, which was a private Islamic school, some of the teachers were racist and favored the Pakistani kids. Even though I was Muslim, I was the only Latino in my class.

Do Not Try to Seek Vengeance

From that experience, I learned a valuable lesson: when somebody does something bad to you, do not try to seek vengeance by doing something similar. Like the saying goes, “Two wrongs do not make a right.” If someone is being harsh to you, you need to have patience, talk to them, and try to solve the problem without a fight. It is also a good idea to let an adult know what is going on and have your parents involved.

After a long time, the bullying ended completely because the boy who bullied me the most got a very bad haircut. His head was completely shaved. He knew that at that moment, it would be easy for my friends and me to get a comeback by making fun of his hair. This was divine justice! However, I would not mock him because I never want to stoop to the same level as a bully again. Sometimes when we ridicule people, we end up in a bad situation as a punishment for our bad actions.

It took a long time to get my classmates to stop bullying, but eventually they did. Once their ringleader stopped, they soon followed. This goes to show that the majority of people who tease others are just followers. Leaders have the choice to either be bullies or to defend others against bullying. So, why try to do right if people will still assume wrong? Because we have to do right no matter what stands in front of us, and hopefully, others will also follow.

I should clarify that while the bullies were Muslim, bullies can be from any religion, race, or class. My classmates just saw that I was different because I was Latino, and I became a target for that reason. They were not getting to know me for who I was, and instead focusing on where I was from. That should never matter because we are all human beings from the same human race. The lesson we should take from this is that we never feel better than anyone. Like the sweater says: “No egos, stay humble.”

Hernan Abu Uthman GuadalupeAuthor Hernan Guadalupe, MEng., PMP, is a Muslim convert of Ecuadorian descent. He is a full-time engineer and a doctoral student in project management, as well as the co-founder of Hablamos Islam, Inc., a non-profit organization that produces educational materials in the Spanish language

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