My youngest daughter, Charly, is in 8th grade. This week her junior high celebrated its Spirit Week. Monday was “Dress Like a Book or Movie Character” day; Tuesday, "Tie Dye" day; and so on. Because Charly, like lots of kids, gives me ten minutes’ notice before these types of things, we didn’t have time to tie dye. She wore her older sister's rainbow-striped t-shirt.
Most evenings Charly and I walk our dog, Baron. Charly really talks to me during our walks, and we both protect this time together. Tuesday evening, she told me a kid she was passing in the hall leaned in to her face and said, "Faggot." She had on the rainbow-striped t-shirt. It didn’t hurt her feelings; she said this kid often bullies. It did make her mad. At first because he came into her personal space. She yelled after him, “That’s not very nice!” By the time of our walk, though, she wanted to “take him down” on behalf of those he bullies.
My mom’s been teaching 35 years. Her response to the incident is as follows:
There have always been and will always be kids who parrot the cruel misconceptions they hear at home. It often gives them a feeling of power to label others and see them as “the other.” Their words say much more about them than about the individual they have labeled, judged, and slammed. What to do? Parents and students need to tell teachers. They have an obligation to address such behaviors. As far as what kids do at the time? There is no point in engaging. In fact that is what those who bully thrive on. They want to argue. Perhaps the best thing is to give them the evil eye and walk off. Don’t give those who bully the satisfaction of knowing he/she got to you.
It definitely happened to me. I turned into my mother. I said almost the same thing to Charly as we talked about what she should do if she is a target for or witnesses this behavior again.
You may be wondering how this relates to the LFP Project. The project provides no end of opportunities for labeling, judgment, and slamming of others. (If you haven’t seen it, find media coverage and check out comments.) Pantry stewards are project teachers. That means when we are informed about this kind of behavior in our communities, part of our work might be to educate and re-direct. For those not in our communities (in the comments), the evil eye is probably better.
Complicating matters, ALL OF US judge. Like junior high, the LFP Project presents an additional opportunity to actively choose trust, grace, and compassion instead. That’s so much harder It's also the project's covert, grand work.
- Please talk to kids about standing up to those who bully, even if you already have. I recommend my mom’s advice. She’s wise.