I’ll just warn you now: This post is going to have a couple instances of slightly harsher swears than you may be accustomed to from me. I’ll be quoting people if that makes you feel better, and it’ll still be PG-13. There will also be some racial slurs thrown in for good measure (again, quoting people, and by now you probably realize this is going to be a serious post).
So. Let’s talk about bullying.
I was neither a bully nor was I particularly bullied when I was growing up. I went through the regular little kid racism in grade school on a pretty daily basis — dumb stuff like, “Your eyes look like this” (cue the infamous stretching of the eyelid corners) or “Your face is flat” or “You look different” (newsflash, kid: we all look different). But since I was raised by excellent parents who helped me adjust to the world in basically every way, I remained pretty unphased.
I mean, I still remember almost all of it.
Like the time in sophomore Biology class and a couple students somehow got onto the topic of hilarious, racist jokes (there were four of us in the group and honest to goodness — I can’t make this up — one was Black and the other was me), and a girl I thought was my friend said, “What do you say to an Asian in the hallway? … I chink I got some gook in my eye!” In case you’re wondering, no, we’re not still friends, and no, I didn’t think that was particularly hilarious because I don’t like jokes that include epithets. Maybe I’m a killjoy.
I have a dear friend who was bullied nearly every single day growing up and retaliated with bullying kids who were just a little more vulnerable. I don’t condone that reaction, but there’s a big part of me that understands where it came from. Because kids — especially the ones raised by mean people — are a force to be reckoned with, and you just can’t escape it.
I have two vivid memories of instances where I was bullied — both by girls, both over stupid reasons. The first was a reaction to my saying she looked like she did her makeup with Skittles — pretty rude, I realize, but for a week or so, her friends would sidle in next to me at the cafeteria and tell me they were going to, at some point, kick the shit out of me. In the end, things were resolved, and I managed to keep all of my shit inside, which is generally my preference.
The second was a reaction to my being — I don’t know, smarter? The TA? Champion of the underdog? — and they informed me, during a peer counseling session (that’s a joke, by the way. Don’t have kids try to fix other kids’ problems.) that they would call me a bitch every time they saw me in the hallway and would even have all their friends and cohorts and family members and gang boyfriends and who knows — the whole damn world? — do the same.
That never actually happened because the assistant principal and I had a lovely chat about what took place. I am nothing if not a strong, resilient girl, and I don’t take no crap from nobody.
But the bullying stopped there, and for the most part, lasted no longer than a week or two. I never found any reason to bully other kids because I was about 4’10” at my tallest in middle school and weighed I think around 85 lbs., plus I was raised by the World’s Nicest Woman who would have shuddered at the thought of my being mean to anyone. I was the kid who would go home, crying to her mother, about other kids getting bullied. I was the kid who encouraged her mother to anonymously purchase coats and longer pants for kids I saw being treated unfairly so maybe — just maybe — the bullies would get off their backs.
In hearing stories from friends who were bullied growing up, I think it’s high time we put an end to it. Close the chapter on bullying and move on to something a whole lot better. Put a stop to mean people raising mean kids, to abusive parents hitting their children, to alcoholics getting pregnant.
Look, I get it — we’re all going to get hurt at some point in our lives. We all will. But that doesn’t mean we have to put that on someone else — that doesn’t ease the pain at all. It just spreads it, like a wildfire, till one day we’ll look around and all we’ll see is miles and miles stretching across the globe of people who are hurt and are hurting and we won’t even recognize our own communities.
This video has gone viral on Youtube, and chances are you’ve seen it posted on friends’ walls and thought to skip it. Well, stop that. It’s a quick seven minutes that will change the way you view bullying and will hopefully continue to spurn change.
Want to learn more? Visit http://tothisdayproject.com/