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We Shouldn't Need to Share That Viral Video of a Bullied Child With Dwarfism

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Editor's Note

The Mighty is running this story without linking to the viral video referenced, since it is unclear whether or not the video was posted with consent. 

If you’ve experienced suicidal thoughts or bullying, the following story could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

A video that shows the raw effects of bullying has been circulating around the internet — and it’s quite upsetting to watch. It shows Quaden Bayles, a 9-year-old boy with dwarfism, dealing with the immense weight of sadness, self-doubt and fear that comes from being bullied. In the video, which was originally posted by his mom on Facebook, Quaden says things like, “I want to die right now,” and, “I want someone to kill me.”

The video quickly went viral. Since it was posted on Tuesday, it has been viewed over 23 million times. People are now even accusing Quaden and his mother of “scamming” the public, claiming that he’s actually 18 years old. These claims are unfounded. He is a 9-year-old child, and I believe his mother recorded this video as a last resort. This is not an issue that should be taken lightly.

As a person with dwarfism, I know exactly the form of bullying he is alluding to. It is being patted on the head by other children, and even adults, sometimes even your teacher. It is being picked up without consent. It is hurtful name-calling. And, in the age of iPhones, it’s strangers taking your photo while you’re in public. I am aware that this exists because I lived it, but going through all of it at a young age can be really horrible. The child in this video is obviously in a lot of pain and my heart breaks for him.

All of this being said, I am so disappointed this child had to suffer this much in order for people to notice. There is no reason he should be pushed to his limit, and for his mother to feel so helpless. As a 22-year-old advocate with dwarfism, I know this problem can not magically be fixed by one article. However, I do think if we shift the focus from the act of bullying to the root cause of the bullying, little changes can happen that will eventually change the world.

The most important part of this situation is Quaden. Celebrities including Hugh Jackman and Megyn Kelly have reached out saying they support him and that they are so sorry about his situation. Comedian Brad Williams, who also has dwarfism, launched a GoFundMe to send Quaden and his mother to Disneyland. The support from people around the world is incredible. However, it is now time to take action so no other child with dwarfism will ever find themselves in this situation. I believe there are two big things that need to change: media and accessibility.

The media has never painted dwarfism in a serious, human light. Movies like “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves,” “The Wizard of Oz” and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” are popular, especially with children. These films depict Little People as creatures and very clearly separate them from the able-bodied characters. Their size is used as a source of comedy, with belittling jokes made at their expense. Kids will watch these movies, and this will inform how they see people with dwarfism.

This media issue is not limited to only children’s movies. Hugh Jackman (the same celebrity who reached out to Quaden) was in a movie a few years ago called “The Greatest Showman,” marketed to children and adults. It glorified the life of P.T. Barnum, the owner of one of the largest circus companies in the world. There is a character in the movie with dwarfism, who is one of P.T. Barnum’s “freaks.” The movie did make Barnum out to be kind to the “Tom Thumb” character, but it also made it seem like he was saved by Barnum. Viewers left the theatre thinking this person could go nowhere in life because he was born with dwarfism until he had the opportunity to perform in the circus because his size was comedic and interesting to the public.

These storylines are no longer relevant. It is time to tell new stories to children and adults that involve Little People who are playing real people with real problems. They deserve to be featured in meaningful story arcs, such as romances and dramas. This normalization of storytelling would move the dwarfism community miles from how we are portrayed now.

Accessibility is an essential component in ending bullying because it puts everyone on a level playing field. Most schools are not totally accessible for all people. This usually means that a child with a physical disability will need extra assistance. When kids are young, this can seem very daunting. For example, when I was a child, there were stools built for me in the school restrooms. I am incredibly thankful the school provided me with the accommodations I needed because I know that isn’t the case for every child with dwarfism. However, all of the girls knew them as “Sarah’s stools” and it created a separation between me and everyone else. Accessible schools provide opportunities for children to grow because they create an environment of respect. Of course, this same idea can be applied to any type of building. Accessibility creates an environment of equality and so much more can happen in the world if everyone is given an accessible space.

I am not saying better media representation and more accessible environments will end all bullying of children with dwarfism, but if the public shifts the focus to these topics (and away from conspiracy theories about the boy in the video), things can change. In a video made by SBS Australia — where both Quaden and his mom were interviewed — Quaden said, “Parents should [teach] their kids how to be nice to people with disabilities.” At the end of the day, when children are educated about and taught to respect people with disabilities, there’s a better chance these instances of bullying won’t occur.

Quaden tackles bullying head-on

EXCLUSIVE: "If you get bullied just stand up for yourself." 9-year-old Murri boy, Quaden tackles bullying head-on and receives an outstanding community response.

Posted by SBS Australia on Thursday, February 20, 2020

Sharing the video is not enough — we need to take specific action. Here are some practical ways you can help. Attend school meetings and suggest that the school begin to become more accessible for all students. Share movies with children that celebrate all types of people. Talk to your children about physical differences and what they think about them. Never discipline a child if they have a question about physical difference, and always stand up to bullies. If more is done to address the root problem, videos like this will never have to be made.

Screenshot via SBS Australia

Originally published: February 21, 2020
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