Saturday, January 19, 2013

Confront your Inner Bully

Act # 20:  Teach kindness.

Dear Childhood Classmates,
Many of you are now Facebook friends with me so I hope you don't take this the wrong way.  This is in no way written to blame you or make you feel bad.  Be rest assured, this is not really even about you anymore.  This time, it's about me.  It's about my son.  It's about all of us.  

I truly hope this finds you each doing well.  I mean that.  As I sit here decades later, I want you to know that I'm pretty darn happy.  I'm fortunate beyond belief and even though it took a while, I'm finally comfortable being exactly who I am.  I wouldn't change a thing.  The profoundness of that statement may not be as apparent to you, but you see, for years, I woke up everyday wishing I was someone else.  I hated my dark olive skin color, the curls in my hair, the fact that my family didn't share the same upper class socio-economic status as yours.  I was lucky to have found a close group of 5 girlfriends who loved the real me and who sustained a deep sisterhood with me from the third grade all the way up to 9th grade.  You know who you are, and I do miss our time together! 

But it seemed like outside of that circle, every day I was made to feel like I didn't belong, shouldn't belong.  I remember, and still cringe, over the taunting.  Little black girl.   Little maid girl. Four eyes.  Your skin is as black as the night.  

I remember the time in fourth grade when I had a huge crush on a boy and as he walked by, knowing about my crush, you sang such painful words.  Little black girl is in love.  Little black girl doesn't have a chance.  I ran as fast as I could.  I thought I was going to die.  Or in middle school when I was the butt of a cruel, cruel joke, when all of a sudden the most popular basketball player seemingly developed an interest in me.  I had no idea you were all laughing about the absurdity of this behind my back. How could a little black girl like me dare aspire to  have the attention of someone like that?  For years I subconsciously surrounded myself with the prettiest, most popular girls, hoping for a chance at finally feeling like I fit in, but I was wrong.  I remember the time that you showed up at my door with flowers.  I didn't even like you in that way, but I was so excited that a boy brought me flowers!  You then told me that you had actually brought them for one of my pretty girlfriends, but she wasn't home and you didn't want to waste them. I was crushed.

And then there was that year, when all of my girlfriends were cheerleaders and you told me that I wasn't pretty enough, that I wasn't the right kind.  And there are so many more stories.  So many more.

While this blog post may seem like I've been dwelling on this my entire life, I haven't really stopped to think about this - or you, you for a long, long time.  Since that time, my life kind of took a turn.  For some crazy reason, people started thinking I was beautiful because of the color of my skin.  Boys actually brought me flowers.  I actually went on a date or two with the most popular basketball player.  Turns out he was just as insecure as I was. 

I'm writing this blog at this point in my life because most recently I've come to learn first hand, the devastating impact of "innocent" childhood bullying.  I've seen the results of living in a society that accepts the status quo that "kids will be kids", and I've watched us simply give up on the notion of instilling and teaching respect and compassion to our young people.  I'm one of the lucky ones who found support, who found myself, who eventually learned to love myself.  There are others who aren't as lucky and who will grow up believing you.  That they are less.  Unworthy.  That they are never going to fit in.  I know that many of you have children of your own now, and I pray that life experiences have since helped you grow as a person and as a parent.  I hope that you are raising them with compassion and love, and unlike me, I hope they don't have to go a single day of their lives wishing that they were someone else.

That Girl You May or May Not Recall

Author's Note:  Between the ages of 9-14, I attended a private international school in Bangkok, Thailand.   At the time (God, I hope things have changed), darker skin Thais were typically seen as having come from under-privileged, more working class backgrounds.  My family was comfortably middle-class, but I did not share the background of my peers.  Many of my friends had private chauffeurs, and housefuls of servants and gardeners.   While there are so many rich and wonderful aspects about my heritage that I celebrate, I have always struggled with classicism and the inequitable distributions of power and wealth that I witnessed.  On a positive note, there was one boy who always liked me for exactly who I was. Thank you.


  1. Black is beautiful, honey. That is why people pay to get your complexion.

  2. Well said. Thank you for sharing. Hopefully we will all be forgiven for our ignorance as youths and will be able to instill better values and understanding in our children. As a parent I believe this is my most important task... to raise a responsible addition to society. With these values being forefront.

    1. Yes, I hope so too and thanks for your thoughtful comments!