Tell Parents About Harassment

First person

I wanted to go to Disneyland. It was 1978 and I was 13 years old.

I was busy one October evening trying to sell newspaper subscriptions door to door in a north Spokane neighborhood. If I sold the most, I would win.

A Volkswagen bug drove up alongside me. Three high school boys were in the car. They yelled racial slurs at me. They screamed: “Get out of our neighborhood!”

They drove away, but then I heard the roar of their engine, coming back. I was in an unfamiliar neighborhood. I didn’t know where it was safe to run.

They made another pass by, and I ran to a well-lighted area and stayed there until I calmed down.

I didn’t tell my parents. As an African-American child, I was used to the bullying that came in the form of racism. I was used to everyone looking at me and making subtle remarks during a class discussion about slavery.

I would advise young people who might experience similar bullying today to communicate with their parents or someone who can get things done and someone you trust.

Don’t keep it quiet. The more attention you bring to the situation, the more likely the bully will stop bullying you.

Don’t physically confront the bully because anymore people don’t just fight with fists.

Above all, don’t internalize the bully’s message.

We all have built into our core of existence something called the anti-self - a negative part of us that believes we can’t do or obtain things in our lifetime.

If you listen to the bully, the anti-self will just get stronger. But if you know who you are and where you are going, that anti-self grows weak. And the bully, sensing this, will look for someone else to harass.

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