Savannah Hanson: Honoring differences |

Savannah Hanson: Honoring differences

Savannah Hanson
The play "Mary Brave Eyes" is set to tour seven local middle schools to help educate youth on the insidious nature of bullying.
Submitted photo to The Union |

Until we learn to recognize and take responsibly for our own egoic patterns, be accountable for our irritability, judgments, upsets, drama and complaints, we will remain the victim of our own minds. It takes great awareness to learn, without shame or blame, we are doing it to ourselves.

The ego is both tenacious and vicious to ensure its survival. It has a way of shapeshifting, morphing once we integrate one wound, false belief, or old conditioning.

Before we are willing to be the witness of our own inner turmoil, we will often play the pass the hot potato game. Our planet is witnessing this on a global and personal scale, seeing others as the problem. If only our partner, child, neighbor, a boss would change, or foreigners would go back to where they came from, everything would be fine. This lack of self-awareness can result in aggression, attack, blame, guilt, bullying, prejudice.

Sadly, our children can learn to mimic or adapt to the prejudice they see around them. At the same time I am encouraged by the kindness and lack of bigotry or intolerance I witness here in some parts of our community.

I am so grateful for the acceptance of teens of different races, religions or sexual preferences by the students I see at Sierra Academy of Expeditionary Learning.

Office manager Suzanne Hardin said the school’s no bullying policy is so effective because they apply the policy with persistence and consistency, making sure all teachers are committed. They also follow up on any reported incidents to ensure the bullying has stopped and they bring in witnesses. Finally, the character component of the curriculum is integral to Sierra Academy of Expeditionary Learning’s worldview.

This is juxtapositioned by some incidents of discrimination that have occurred in our town. For example, a young African American man was followed by a carload of white youths harassing him while no witnesses intervened. Happily, our community rose up to support him and his family with a love march. Another incident was when a window at Spirit House, showcasing numerous holiday traditions, was shattered directly in front of the Kwanzaa display.

Battling bullies

I was happy to be invited to the Nugget Fringe Theater Festival to a play called “Mary Brave Eyes.” The play explored how children can take on the hateful attitudes of their parents and use that aggression to attack those they perceive to be vulnerable, weak, different. The play was based on writer/director/actor Karen Leigh Sharp’s personal experience growing up in California with a racist Southern mother. Both in the play and in real life, we witness the power of someone choosing to move beyond childhood conditioning to embrace tolerance and inclusion.

The program for the play states, “love embraces hate, and goodness triumph over ignorance.” Sharp said she got to create the mother and neighbors she wished she had.

Sharp is taking the play to seven local middle schools to help educate youth to be aware of the insidious nature of bullying. When asked how to overcome the cycle of hatred without external support, one middle schooler answered that you have to just go inside and think about what is right.

In the play, a violent father influenced his son to bully, yet his daughter was able to change from her learned behavior of hatred, from someone who picks on others to someone who stands up to bullying behavior. Sharp emphasizes how important it is for bystanders to act rather than remaining silent. One of the characters in the play, said, “Honey, you’ve got to wake your soul up before it is too late for you.”

Yet bullies are often victims themselves. According to Edsource, one in three middle of high school students report being bullied in the last year.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention said, “Multiple studies have documented the association between substance use, poor academic achievement, mental health problems, and bullying. A small but growing body of research suggests that family violence also is associated with bullying.

“Compared with students who were neither bullies nor bullying victims, both middle and high school bully-victims were more than three times as likely to report seriously considering suicide (24.9 percent versus 4.5 percent for middle school; 22.5 percent versus 6.2 percent for high school), intentionally injuring themselves (40.9 percent versus 8.4 percent for middle school; 28.5 percent versus 8.6 percent for high school), being physically hurt by a family member (23.2 percent versus 5.1 percent for middle school; 20.4 percent versus 4.7 percent for high school), and witnessing violence in their family (22.8 percent versus 6.6 percent for middle school; 30.6 percent versus 7.2 percent for high school).”

As a community, it is important we stand up to bullying and discrimination wherever we witness it. We are gifted to live in an extraordinarily beautiful area. Let’s extend that beauty and sense of welcome to all members of our community, regardless of differences.

For information on private sessions or classes or to schedule a free 20-minute consultation, contact Savannah Hanson, M.A., MFT #40422 at 530-575-5052 or

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