Bullying in general means intimidating or overpowering someone weaker. Racial bullying refers to bullying based on race or country-based discrimination, which is called xenophobia. Bullying severity ranges from being obnoxious to being cruel or even assaulting others. Major assaults and hate crimes typically do not count as bullying because they count first as criminal assaults.

Another strange aspect of bullying terminology is often applied only to school-age children and not adults, even though a lot of adults engage in bullying. Bullying surveys are done only of school-age children. And anti-bullying programs to reduce bullying can only be found in schools.

In 2006, the World Health Organization (WHO) coordinated school surveys in 40 nations to compare the prevalence of school-based bullying. The percent of male students aged 11, 13, and 15 who participated in bullying ranged from 8% in Sweden to 46% in Lithuania with 22% in the USA. Most of the highest bullying rates reported were in Eastern European nations and most of the lowest rates were in Western Europe. In all countries, bullying was more likely among boys than girls.

More recent studies of bullying in the USA have found about 30% of boys in school reported to have been involved in bullying (2013 School Crime and Safety report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics).  The most common form of bullying is verbal, followed by sexual, racial and physical, according to a 2013 survey by Clemson University using the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program Questionnaire. Cyber bullying has been growing rapidly as more and more student communication occurs online.

Students who are recent immigrants or appear to belong to minority racial groups are considerably more likely to be targets of bullying than white students. Given these patterns, we have cause to worry about laws and law enforcement crackdown on immigrant entry into the United States and EU countries. The same is true of government action to eject undocumented workers from the USA. Likewise, policy changes such as cancellation of laws that protect LGTB and ethnic subgroups send a signal to white nationalists and others who believe that severe forms of bullying are patriotic.

Even though adult bullying has not been studied seriously, we know that many bullying children continue to bully others throughout adulthood. Furthermore, some of these adult bullies engage in violent criminal actions as well as the milder forms of aggression toward others that we call bullying.

Bullying Role Models in the United States

Beginning in late 2015 during the national and local political campaigns of the 2016 US election, the mainstream media gave unusual amounts of coverage to individuals who made rash, hateful, and hurtful comments about other persons or social groups. While these comments were treated as harmless, like playground name-calling, they left millions of people feeling hurt and terrified of losing their rights and peace of mind.

As many of these political bullies were given celebrity-like attention in the media, they became role models for the young people as well as the adult population. It is not surprising that the amount of angry speech, protesting and violent action rose during the political campaigns of 2016. And given that the political system in the United States has become so polarized and filled with anger and antagonism, particularly toward minority and immigrant groups, this highly aggressive behavior of adult bullying and hate crimes has continued into 2017.

In fact, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and the New York City Police Department both reported an increase of over 100% in hate crimes in the weeks after the election compared to the year before the election. The SPLC also reported a major rise in the number of hate groups in the USA during this period. These hate groups include those devoted to white nationalism, neo-Nazi, anti-LGBTQ+, the Ku Klux Klan, black separatist groups and anti-Muslim groups.

 Global Bullying on the Rise

Earlier, in the wake of the Brexit vote in the UK, the National Police Chiefs Council reported a five-fold increase in hate-crime. The Brexit campaign and its surprising outcome greatly increased popular attention to the challenges of control of refugee inflow.

The United Nations’ General Assembly Third Committee held a hearing on November 1, 2016 in which delegates and experts on racism and xenophobia reported that xenophobia and racism were on the rise globally. They reported that this trend was most visible against migrants, refugees, and people of African descent. Mutuma Ruteere urged States to adopt legislation to combat racism and update anti-racism laws in light of the increasingly open expression of hate speech and incitement to violence.

The Future of Bullying

In peaceful political times in America, the bullying rates were nearly a third of boys and over a fourth of girls, it is not inconceivable the bullying rate could double in an era when major political leaders act like bullies and get rewarded for it by media attention, online media support and hero-worshiping by staunch political supporters.

A review of the nature of adult bullying found that adult bullies (1) have little emotional control and lash out at their victims, (2) tend to be very egotistical and seem to enjoy harming people they dislike, (3) easily get angry and threaten to destroy the lives or property of their targeted victims, (4) as powerful personalities, they enjoy seeing their opponents suffer, and (5) get pleasure from finding and helping out other bullies. If you see or read about individuals that behave like this, warn others about the danger of the bully or bullies to the society. These are the kind of people that can not only destroy the lives of innocent people but destroy democracy, human rights and other human values.

The rise of racial bullying worldwide may be partly a function of haphazard globalization combined with tragic armed conflicts. However, the path toward racial and xenophobic bullying is being paved by politics. Especially guilty are political candidates and leaders that incite bullying using a combination of populist, nationalist, and ethnic-nationalist rhetoric.

Over time, racial bullying can spread and infect a community, a society or the world. In the USA, we could within a year or even a few months transition from a society of one thirds to two thirds bullies. And how could one bring up children in an environment where most of their friends and role models are racist and xenophobic bullies?