Once upon a time, I lived in the land of Indiana during a time when you were bullied or harassed, you did one of two things: 1) fight or 2) run. I vividly remember the torment of elementary school, tortured solely based on my race, which seemed to bewilder and anger white and black alike. I made people feel uncomfortable being both and I never really fit into a perfect box for my peers to accept. Of course, there were exceptions and friends. However, for years people would ask me crazy questions like, “What are you?”, as if I were some alien visitor from another planet. I got use to it and sometimes would head people off from the inquiry because I could see the question scrolling across their eyes.
I believe my father was fully aware of what was coming my way when I started school. He told me with seriousness, “The moment someone screws with you, pick up a chair and hit them in the head with it.” My mother, the non-violent and non-confrontational one, horrified with my father’s stern advice, told me, “No fighting in school, just walk away.” Dad gave me the look. The look as if to say: “You better listen up, girl.” I journeyed off to school with a backpack of anxiety because I kept hearing my father’s voice in one ear and my mother’s non-violent message in the other. Their opposing points of view created a deep inner conflict as to which parent to actually obey. My young mind considered only the choices my parents presented for me and limited my choice-making selections to fight or run.
As my father predicted, the first day of school was filled with rudeness, insults and isolation. I stewed in anxiety and anger for the entire day, staring at chairs. At no point did any instruction or education pass through my ears or make it to my brain. Why was this happening to me? Was it because I was the new girl? Was it because of my race? For me, it made no sense.
At the end of the day I had picked my target, a girl who had been the most vocal with her disgust for me. I was sitting on my weapon, but I did not want to disobey my mother. I decided last minute to just run home once school ended and escape the nightmare but as I stood to leave the classroom, my original target spat on me on her way out.
In a blink of an eye, I dragged my chair into the hallway, out the nearest exit. There she was with a group of friends, staring at me as if she was ready for a fight, but she quickly changed her mind when my chair hurdled into the air and smacked her across the forehead. Super-shocked, she and her friends ran from the scene as I stood there, hyperventilating and having an out-of-body experience.
There was never any adult intervention from the beginning of the day to the end. I believe the chair was still on the side of the building the very next day. While some may feel my actions were justified, I believe there were other options for me to consider, like, informing a teacher as soon as I was insulted or clearly and firmly address my tormentor instead of silently seethe. Invoking scenes from a movie, I wish I could say my retaliation prevented further bullying, but it did not. For several years, by different students and different reasons, I was tortured daily in the Indiana school system.
Today there are so many other options for students and parents to consider instead of fighting or running. Violence begets violence and running from our problems never resolves our issues and challenges in life. Although great strides have been made to bring bullying issues to the forefront of discussions much still needs to be done to end this social ill.
There is encouraging news from the land of Indiana. On Monday, February 25, 2013, Indiana’s House of Representatives passed legislation that bolstered the current anti-bullying law to include training for teachers, cyber bullying and harsher punishments for offenders of the law. It awaits Senate approval and is expected to pass into law.
Although, I will never be a benefactor of the new law that passes, I am filled with hope for those children filling the halls in Indiana schools. Hope because many students, teachers and parents now have access to wonderful services that are available to them, like the TURNING STONEchoice program, which equips adults and students with the tools to empower themselves to make positive choices.
Please visit http://www.turningstonechoice.com for more information on TURNING STONEchoice and its process.
~Sammy @TURNING STONEchoice