Saturday, November 20, 2010

Bullying

And speaking of prejudice...

I read something this week that almost made me cry. Carrie Goldman is a blogger for Chicago Now, and she posted this about her daughter Katie (the insanely adorable girl in the pic):

"At summer's end, Katie and I went to Target to pick out her backpack, lunchbox and water bottle for the new school year.
After great deliberation, she chose a Star Wars water bottle to match her Star Wars backpack. 
Katie loves Star Wars, and she was very excited about her new items.  For the first few months of school, she proudly filled her water bottle herself and helped me pack her lunch each morning.
But a week ago, as we were packing her lunch, Katie said, "My Star Wars water bottle is too small.  It doesn't hold enough water.  Can I take a different one?"  

She searched through the cupboard until she found a pink water bottle and said, "I'll bring this."
I was perplexed.  "Katie, that water bottle is no bigger than your Star Wars one.  I think it is actually smaller."
"It's fine, I'll just take it," she insisted. 
I kept pushing the issue, because it didn't make sense to me.  Suddenly, Katie burst into tears.
She wailed, "The first grade boys are teasing me at lunch because I have a Star Wars water bottle.  They say it's only for boys.  Every day they make fun of me for drinking out of it.  I want them to stop, so I'll just bring a pink water bottle."


In case you're wondering, that sound was my heart being shattered in a thousand little pieces.

I remember being a 3rd grader, and liking Japanese cartoons. Many of my classmates (boys, of course) would taunt me, saying I was a boy because I liked boyish TV shows. More often than not, I'd go back home crying.
Sure, I usually beat the living crap out of them. But I'd still cry on the way home.

Some people say it's normal. "Oh well, children are like that, what are you gonna do? They'll grow out of it eventually!" True enough; however, there's something worrying here. Many of those who mock you and ostracize you when you're all children, simply because you like to watch this show or wear that cap, may turn into bigots who'll shun you from their society because you're gay, or black, or Catholic, or overwheight, or because you suck at football but is quite good at Math. The seed is there, in primary school.

When we're kids, we don't know a lot of things, so we act on sheer instinct. A 4-year-old girl, when at the beach, will take off the top part of her bikini, because it annoys her; a little boy doesn't know it's wrong to wet his bed at night, and if his dad hadn't forbidden it, he'd wear pink clothes just like any other color. 
And when in a large group, those children's instinct tells them to shun anyone who's slightly different from them. Ostracizing those who are different from ourselves is nothing more than human instinct. People don't like what they can't understand and/or relate to; "different" equals "threat". So we do what we can to eliminate that threat. It's not that we're naturally bad - it's just that we have a strong survival instinct. Say what you will, but moral and ethics are artificial concepts; stripped down of all of this, man is neither good nor bad: he simply looks for survival. He looks for those similar to himself, so that they can make a united front against the unknown. And regardless of evolution, one still has to conform if one wants to be accepted. Individuality is a threat to the collective.

And that is why being good demands strength; one should wake up everyday determined to be good. Because when we fail, when we slip, other people get hurt. And that is also why one should never stop thinking, digging deeper, looking further - we shouldn't look at the forest, we should be able to appreciate each tree, separately, and recognize their worth.

Carrie Goldman finishes her post by saying:

"I would love to be able to show Katie that she is not alone, that other females appreciate Star Wars.  If there are any female Star Wars fans reading this, please feel free to show your support for Katie. (...)  And if you have a little boy out there who wants to carry a pink water bottle, tell him about Katie and reassure him that if she can carry a "boy" water bottle, he can carry a "girl" water bottle.  Let's help all our kids grow into confident adults who can appreciate being different."

I hope we can all grow into confident kind adults, and you know what else? I'd love it if my daughter had a Star Wars water bottle, and my son a pink one.

And if you like Star Wars, maybe you could drop by Carrie's post and show Katie your support! Tell her that being different is more than ok: it's awesome.

13 comments:

sssdawna said...

wow. those are some brilliant words you write! my heart ached for Katie, too : ( i always want to stick up for the little kids in the world, because they need someone, ya know? i'm going to that blog soon!

i agree with everything you said. and i want to add that, while it's our instinct to be wary of something different, the choice to think deeper and innovate and change for the better is what separates our species from all other living things. that's what makes us human!

sssdawna said...

oh yea, and i tagged you! maybe you'll enjoy the questions, i tried to make it interesting for you : )

MeiBelle said...

how horrible is that? It truly broke my heart reading that story. I'm a girl and I LOVE Star Wars! I need to head on over to tell Katie this

"Individuality is a threat to the collective." How true that is. This really hit home because like many of us who were different, I got made fun of. Because I was different from the other girls and liked video games instead of checking out boys I was ostracized. It really does start in primary school.

Thank you for writing this so eloquently! <3

Nashe^ said...

Aww. It's true that children act on instinct and nobody can really fault them for it..but parents should do more to teach their kids to be more accepting!

Rml said...

Hey girls, thanks for the comments! I'm glad to see others can relate and understand what I'm saying! And I totally agree with your comments.

@sssdawna: thanks! I'll post my answers soon!

RicAdeMus said...

This is a beautiful, thoughtful post. How sad that the collective seeks to destroy things that give others joy.

It's a multi-front war. We have to teach our kids it's okay for them to be different; to be strong when the ignorant taunt them; and that they need to allow others to be different too--for too many people things are okay for me, but not for thee (the old golden rule).

"And that is why being good demands strength" of which you have an abundance--I may need to borrow some. You're kinder than I am, but I knew that already!


PS - I'm glad to see the Star Wars girls sticking together.

PSS - What do we say to the kid who asks, "You say it's okay to be different, so why do I need to have the same morals/ethics as you?" LOL, jk, it's good to be different, but it's never okay to mistreat others.

RicAdeMus said...

Now I feel bad about forcing a kid to eat a mushroom. Hopefully when you hear the story you'll be on my side--I think he had it coming.

Rml said...

Oh God Rick, I just hope it wasn't hallucinogenic... =P

Rml said...

And btw: you always flatter me more than I deserve with your compliments! =)

beanizer_05 said...

okay..you hit me well..what can i say? i feel guilty of doubting the sexuality of my monster nephew (you know who) for playing with kitchen toys, selling toy veggies, pushing a pink baby stroller and crying over the "bratz" dolls. But at least i didn't bully him--coz i'm too scared of his sacred punch!!

but yeah, i do agree with your insights ma'am! It's just that some intelligent morons don't know beautiful angles in others' uniqueness..they only see complexities and so rejection is the only acceptable answer.

nice post:)

RicAdeMus said...

Honestly, I tend to be too conservative and reserved. =)

Rml said...

@beanie: thanks! =)

@Ric: phew!

RicAdeMus said...

Sad thought: I think we can only be hurt by people we care about and as innoccent children we have big hearts that are easy to break.

Does the process of learning not to care what other people think also involve closing off part of our hearts?

If it does, I hope as we grow and learn we're able to find that middle ground in which we care, but can also cope.

While I'm here I want to thank you for something. Your friendship has truly enriched my life and I'm very thankful. But don't go feeling touched or anything like that! It's Thanksgiving Day in the US tomorrow and we're all programmed to be reflective and thankful this week--it's a terrible thing. Thank goodness the holiday season is just once a year!!! ;P