Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Being Jewish

Often we don't post because we can't find anything remotely interesting in the advice columns; other times, one complete month of advice columns goes by and we're too busy with our online gaming addictions to even read them. But yesterday's seventh graders mocking each other in Ask Amy is just the kind we have strong opinions about, enough to break free of our orc-forged chains and actually do a post.
Dear Amy: I am in seventh grade. I am Jewish. I have a Native American friend in the same grade. We have a lot of classes together, and his locker is right next to mine. We have fun together, and he makes me laugh a lot, but he makes fun of me a lot too.

Sometimes he says that I'm fat, but most of the time he makes fun of me because I'm Jewish.

For example, today we were goofing around, and a friend of his said, "What's going on?" and he said, "She was being Jewish." This really hurt my feelings.

He has said that kind of stuff before, and I hate it when he does it. I have tried to get him to stop. Sometimes when I tell him to stop making fun of me, he says stuff like, "But you make fun of me, too." I don't make fun of him like that.

I told him I didn't like it when he made fun of me for being Jewish, and he stopped for about a day. My mom knows that he has made fun of my religion a few times, but I haven't told her that he does it almost every day.

I would feel safe telling a teacher, but I'm afraid that if I do so I will lose him as a friend, and I don't want that to happen. We have almost all of our classes together.

I can also imagine that it might make things worse if I tell. But sometimes I want to cry when he makes fun of me. I don't know what to do.
Amy responds,
There is a difference between having fun and "making fun of." Friends goof around and occasionally tease each other. But it's never okay to criticize someone's ethnicity or religion, even if you're joking.

That's not friendly teasing, that's bullying. And if you're afraid to tell an adult because you think it might make things worse, then that's a sign that this kid is a bully-in-training.

You can say to him, "I want you to stop making fun of my religion. I don't make fun of your being a Native American. What you're doing is mean, and I don't think you're really a mean person, so I want you to stop."

Give him another chance to change. And then, depending on what he says or does next, you should definitely take your concern to your mother and to a teacher.
Lulu: Amy seems to be telling the girl to do things she has already done: ask him to stop, tell him where the boundaries are, and if he doesn't stop, tell a teacher. But I think all of that is shitty advice for a seventh-grader.

Seventh-graders will not respond to a calm discussion of boundaries. He keeps doing it because it gets her riled up, not in spite of it. Saying "This is off-limits, don't make fun of this" is like drawing a target.

And crying to teacher will solve nothing. What is a teacher going to do? Punish the boy and make you feel like a tattletale? Have a Classroom Activity about Being Sensitive to Each Other's Culture, which the boy will ignore and mock?

Ashley: Is it wrong of me that maybe she should make fun of him for being NA? She'll prolly get expelled though :(

Lulu: What is there to make fun of? Your people were oppressed and killed by white man! LAUGH RIOT. I think she should ignore it. Just roll her eyes when he does it. Talk to him about something else. Or don't, if he's not worth talking to.

Ashley: I guess you could own the joke?

"Want to hang out?"
"No, I'll be over here being Jewish"

Lulu: Ha. Yeah, that's another way to go. Demonstrate how ridiculous it is.

Ashley: But yeah, at the end, you either accept it as part of your friend, or you get new friends.

Lulu: And learning how to deal with a friend who is kind of a jerk--to either ignore the jerk parts or drop him as a friend--is an important life skill! Because everyone is a jerk.

Ashley: It's true!


  1. If you can't make fun of somebody for being Native American, you are not trying hard enough. I would personally start making fun of him for being Indian, using the stereotypes for dots-not-feathers. Comedic misunderstanding!

    Alternate solution - she is a girl, he is a boy. Next time he does it, kick him in the balls.

    Also "get better friends" is my shtick, damnit.

  2. Oh man, completely forgot:

    "There is a difference between having fun and "making fun of." Friends goof around and occasionally tease each other. But it's never okay to criticize someone's ethnicity or religion, even if you're joking."

    That is a wildly incorrect statement on the nature of friendly joking, if my experience with friendships have anything to say about it. I wouldn't ever argue that my peeps are a sensitive bunch, but what is off-limits is always defined by the people in the group, not by some grand all-inclusive rule.