I moved from the city at the age of eight to a more rural community. I had never encountered racism or full assault of bullying before. I couldn't understand what I had done to make all these kids not like me. My clothes were too fashion forward (my Mom sewed them so they weren't designer and it was 1972!), I wore glasses, I had a lot of siblings (5) and I had moved from the city! Those were all problems. It started with name calling and then just ostracization. No one stoke to me at lunch or recess. No one would sit by me at lunch either. I had "cooties" that spread if you touched me. I was a white nigger. I had to go home and ask about that one! They even started a petition to have me removed from their class.
As one year passed into another things just got worse. These kids had siblings, too -- in lower grades with my brothers. When I tried to stand up for myself they had their siblings start harassing my brothers. They attacked us before and after school. They rode past my house and threatened my three year old little brother in the yard. How do you fight against bullies who take it to that level?
My parents were at the school filing a complaint about this behavior but back in the 70's we didn't recognize bullying. But even today, schools ask what did your child do to provoke the behavior? When I fought back and encourage by brother to fight back the school system said I provoked the bullying. In this case, my parents told the school if they couldn't stand up for me I had to stand up for myself.
When I refused to participate in the 8th grade graduation commencement preparations and ceremony the school was outraged and tried to force the issue. My parents stood behind me and told the school it was my decision not to participate with people I didn't respect.
Unfortunately, these kids followed me into High School. While the student body was bigger their harassment continued with locker break ins, the continuation of destruction of property, knocking you down in the hall, knocking your books out of your hands, holding you in the hall so you are late for class, knocking your lunch tray out of your hands, putting skunk oil in your locker, etc. etc.
I learned to hide and avoid. Avoid and avoid. I hid out in little known hallway at lunch and read. I moved into a sibling's locker for part of a year. I walked with teachers and hung out near them in study hall and became friends with them in class so that they noticed if something was going on. I sat near the front. I no longer tried to hang out in the crowd.
Some friends came and went. It depended on the class or the need to make friends with a teacher I was friends with but I didn't go to my High School graduation either. I went to college but stayed a loner as well.
I am a very outgoing person. It is one of the best aspects of my personalities but I don't have a lot of friends and certainly no one from my school days or college.
What I have learned since I was 8, is that it was never about me. I think I always knew that but accepting it is still hard. Understanding what motivated and still motivates kids and adults who do this is even harder. Peer pressure is too easy an answer. Riding herd over kids who don't stand up for themselves is too easy an answer, too. I stood up for myself but it just got worse and worse.
When I watched to Bully Project movie it was so easy to relate to why kids stop reporting bullying. You just get used to it. You stop feeling it -- physically and emotionally. The sadness is there to read and deep inside but you just stop feeling it on a surface level.
Accepting that it wasn't about me is still a work in progress and I am now 50 years old!
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