In response to the heartbreaking racist bullying incident at a particular school in Newfoundland…
I don’t know you. You don’t know me. I’ve never been anywhere near Baie Verte, N.L. I’m a 25-year-old white woman in Quebec City. But I know how you feel.
I went through “extreme bullying”. In school, everything I did or touched was disgusting and even if I held the door for another kid they wouldn’t go through it. If I offered to lend someone a pencil they wouldn’t touch it. I got called dozens of different names. At the end of every class I would pick up junk that had been thrown at me– erasers, pencil nubs, bits of paper, you know– by the fistfuls. I was beaten up twice, nearly beaten up on two other occasions, accused of bad things I didn’t do at least three times, and once, in Grade 7, I had a shoe of mine stolen and thrown into a toilet full of piss. I was too scared to tell anyone and spent several hours in my socks until a teacher noticed.
I didn’t have a designated washroom to avoid harassment, but I had a designated closet to hide in, a designated corridor NOT to go down, and a modified class schedule. This was done by teachers with good intentions, but I wish they would have enforced their own rules about respect instead of helping me hide. A few did. Most didn’t.
Why was I bullied? A bunch of reasons. I was small and skinny and too afraid of punishment to fight back. I had a funny name. I had a weird gait, weird speech, weird skin, weird tics and weird hair. I was uncoordinated. Most of all, it was because people saw me somehow as mannish. But there were also people who were rude to me to be part of the crowd, or because they needed an outlet for their own anger.
This lasted from Grade Two to the beginning of Grade Ten. In high school I had real friends for the first time. Even some of the people who hurt me started to respect me, because they saw that all the harassment hadn’t made me into a worse person. Although I have to admit, I never completely got over what they did.
It does get better, slowly. People get older and more mature. You meet more people as you get older. I know it’s really, really hard to be patient, but that’s the only way out. When you get old enough, move away, move to a new town and work or study with people who share your interests.
Try to find someone understanding who you can talk to. A teacher or a worker at your school, a family member, a sports coach, anyone. Keeping your feelings inside hurts.
Try to ignore the insults. I do mean try. I know there’s only so much a kid (or anyone, for that matter) can ignore.
If someone breaks the rules or commits a crime to hurt you, though, go to your parents, school authorities, or the cops.
MOST IMPORTANTLY… Get yourself a dream. “I’ve always wanted to be a…”, “In ten years I want to be…”. It can be anything. When things get really terrible, think about your dream. That dream is your reason to stay in school, your exit door and the thing that makes you stronger than the bullies, and gives you direction. That worked for me, anyway. I always wanted to go to university, travel and become a writer. Now I’m a newspaper reporter and nearly finished university, and I’ve done some travelling too.
You will keep hearing those little voices of self-doubt. Resist the temptation to drown them out with alcohol, drugs, unhealthy food or any other addictive, unhealthy or mind-numbing activity. Find yourself a passion (sports? art? reading? birdwatching? playing the drums? anything, really) and surround yourself with as many positive, friendly people as you can. Eventually the positive voices and thoughts will drown out the negative ones. Most of the time.
Don’t be afraid to talk to a good friend or even a therapist if the pain gets to be too much. Although “buddies” or “acquaintances” might not listen to you, real friends will.
Remember that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. It’s true.
If you learn anything from this really terrible experience, use it to help other bullied kids and teenagers. Pass it on, let them know they’re not alone. You’re not.
Best of luck,