By Ahtiya Liles
To all the people out there who bullied me for: my diet, my hair, my wardrobe, my grades, my face…thank you.
Thank you to all the people who felt better because I felt worse. I really owe you something, don’t I? Well, no, I don’t owe you anything, but still: thank you.
You taught me that being bullied makes you stronger, but you also taught me that sometimes I wish I hadn’t become this strong because of you. In a perfect world, my self-esteem would have come naturally – I would not have had to build it back up from the ground because you tore it down. I come from a loving family, and I have some good circumstances, so my confidence should have just been there. It should not have been under attack. But that’s middle school, right?
That’s what everyone says. I’ve brought up the topic of bullying in middle school in conversations with my friends and even in classroom discussions. Everyone is so appalled that it happens and wants to do something to combat the after-effects, but when asked about actual bullying, people stare at you as if you have three heads.
“It’s part of middle school,” they say.
“It just happens, and we have to make sure to be there for those it happens to,” they say.
“It’s just something that middle school kids go through. It’s sad and heartbreaking, but we just have to reassure them that it gets better,” they said.
Well, I say: “No.”
I say, “We stop it before it starts.”
The whole concept of “it gets better” is just one big invalidation scheme. It’s a society that doesn’t want to take responsibility for raising kids who are mean-spirited and closed minded. We don’t want to hear the problems of the victimized because it means we’ve done something wrong, and God forbid we take any responsibility. We live in a bystander society where it is easier to talk about how bad bullying is and try to comfort people after it happens, instead of nipping it in the butt when it does. We don’t confront things head on.
That’s not America’s style.
We let self-esteems plummet and suicide rates rise, and THEN we step in. Well, I say that’s too late. I say we do something about it. We teach our kids that being different isn’t being wrong – it’s just being different. We teach the next generation to appreciate and accept everyone around them. Differences should not be treated like cooties.
We sit on our butts and say we’ll help them after it happens, but who’s to say we’ll catch everyone? Who’s to say that some won’t fall through the cracks? Who’s to say that we won’t fail them? Who’s to say that we haven’t already failed them by idly standing on the sidelines and watching it happen, waiting until they possibly make it out.
So, while I hope all the bullies in the world get what’s coming to them, I’d like to say thank you to mine. Because, yes, you helped start the process to make me a stronger person, but without you, I’d probably be ignorant to the inner workings of a bullied child. I probably wouldn’t be writing this post. I wish, however, there was another way. In a perfect world, there would be no bullies, and everyone would feel free to be themselves, warts and all.