I have to say that the bullying started when I was in second grade. I lived in a pretty run-down neighborhood in Virginia where I lived amongst poorly educated people and attended an elementary school where differences weren't exactly embraced. I think I was the only Asian in the school, a couple moved here but moved away quickly, since the environment was pretty hostile. Unfortunately, I didn't do that.
Like I said, the first memory I have of being harassed was when I was in second grade. This boy named David, who was in 5th grade at the time and lived on the same street as me, decided it would be fun to pick on me with one of his friends. He didn't start on the racist comments then, he just enjoyed making me cry while his friend laughed.
Well, I told my Mom about it and she thought he was hitting me, so she tracked him down as he walking back home. She made me come along as she screamed at him from the car. I was in the passenger seat, shaking pretty badly with fear. She told him to stop hitting me and he said he wasn't. My Mom thought she took care of it, but of course, he now had a vendetta against me. He'd point at me in school and with a bunch of his friends call me a "Ching chong liar." I guess he realized how much it upset me to be called that because he did that for the rest of the year, following me home with his friends and screaming "Ching chong" in my face, saying he can't stand going to the same school with a dirty girl from Hong Kong (I was from Taiwan).
Now that I think of it, this boy was pretty pathetic; he had to pick on someone who was considerably smaller and younger to make himself feel big. He's probably in one of those white hate groups now. I wish I knew what he was up to, he's probably in jail or dead, but that would be wishful thinking. I think the thing that hurts most about being made fun of for your race is that you had nothing to do with how you were born. I couldn't help that I was born an Asian, I had no control over that, yet people made fun of me because of it, as if it were my fault.
But the incident in second grade was just the beginning, as I soon found out. The other girls in school weren't quite as outspoken about their prejudices, but found more subtler ways of ostracizing me. Like if we had to pick our groups for a project or something, I'd be left out. Sometimes they'd make excuses, but usually it was an outright, I don't want her in our group. Or if we had to find seats in class, I'd always end up alone. It was like they couldn't be tainted by some outsider.
I was remember I was sitting in class and the teacher stepped out of the room when a girl came in and said an English book was left in another room and the owner's last name was Chen. The whole class then said, "Chenney chen chen, ching chong ching." They were looking straight at me while they were doing it. Others thought it sounded funny, so they repeated it. The whole room sounded like a bunch of parrots. I was pretty hurt by the whole thing. It wouldn't bother me now, but when you're in school, the worst thing is not belonging, and that sort of thing would happen all the time.
Fifth grade was definitely the worst though. A new kid named Matt came into my life and made the rest of the year hell for me. I didn't think he hated me until he told me on the playground (while I was alone of course), "Hey, my dad saw you at the supermarket with your sisters and told me your were stupid Chinese people." I'd have to say that felt like he just came up to me and slapped me in the face. I did remember a fat man at Superfresh staring at us while we were at checkout. He was looking at my mother, my sisters and I with such hate that I felt I had to protect my sisters by holding their hands. I mean, his face was all twisted in rage. I still don't know what I did to that man to make him hate me so much. When I was back in class from recess, Matt did it again. I called him an asshole, which is the first time I had ever cussed before, and he just kept taunting me, saying I was a loser for holding my sisters hands, that I was gay or something. I guess his dad told him everything that happened in the supermarket.
Of course it didn't end there. I remember this time in the cafeteria when I saved a seat for myself in the cafeteria by putting a coat on the chair. When I came out of the lunch line, I saw my coat sprawled on the floor and Matt on my seat. He and his friends were laughing pretty hard. I grabbed my coat and ran to another table, and sat there with a kid who was also racist and yelled racist comments at me while I was eating. I couldn't stand it anymore, so at recess I decided to take a rock and graffiti a piece of wood with "Matt loves Dawn." Dawn was a rather pretty girl in our class by the way. I was on the swings when a boy ran by me and yelled, "You're dead!" He was grinning while he said it. I didn't get it then, but when I got back to class, a bunch of kids surrounded me and Matt came up to me and said, "You stupid ching chong, why did you write that shit about me on the playground?" I lied and said I didn't, when the boy who had run by me while I was at the swings piped in and said, "Then how come I saw you write it?" I was stunned and couldn't say anything. Matt then said, "You stupid flat-faced ching chong," and walked away. The worst part of it was that the kids that were surrounding us were smiling and laughing.
The teachers didn't help either, though they thought they were. One counselor pulled me out of class and said, "Are you getting along with the girls in your class?" Of course I lied, I didn't want to talk about it, but she got it out of me anyway. She looked at me and said, "Someone's not telling the truth are they?" I started crying and couldn't stop. She thought she helped me by making me cry and "get in touch with my feelings," but really, she just made the situation worse. I now felt it was something I did to make me an outsider. I told her about Matt, and all she said was, "Oh, sometimes boys like to tease girls they like, you know, stick their tongues at them and stuff." What an idiot. Somehow, I don't think Matt had a crush on me. The next day at recess, Matt and the boy who ratted me out were staring at me and following me around. It really scared me so I went to a teacher and told her I was afraid they'd beat me up. It started crying uncontrollably, in fact, I'm crying right now as I'm writing this, but all she did was say, "You're a shy little thing, aren't you?" And took the boys aside and gave them a reprimand. As you can imagine, that didn't really stop them. Later at gym, while we were running the mile, I heard a person panting behind me and commented, "It's really hard isn't it?" I didn't realize it was Matt, and he came up and said, "Screw you bitch," and kept running. This happened in fifth grade.
In sixth grade, the brilliant administration in our school (note the sarcasm) came up with a system where if a person got picked on, they would write it in a notebook, and on a designated day, the whole class would sit in a circle and our problems would be shared with everyone in the class. Obviously, it didn't solve anything. Now if a kid came up to a teacher and complained, they would be told, "Just write it in the notebook." It made the teacher think that the meetings would take care of everything, and they were absolved of any responsibility. It made the teachers lazy in enforcing discipline. Well, it's not like they were really good at it before.
Also, it was a stupid program because the bullies would threated the kids that they'd beat them up or worse if they wrote anything about them in the notebook. I know, because it happened to me. And since I was unbearably shy, it was torture having to share your problems with the whole class, and have them know your personal business. Plus, the class was never on the victim's side. In fact, they saw them as whiny little babies who can't handle the heat. I remember sitting in the circle hearing a peer discuss the problem of racism. Funny, I remember the same girl hitting me in the face with a ball that very day and calling me ching chong. The girl decides to embarrass me and ask me how it felt when people call me ching chong ching. Moron. How does she think it makes me feel-good? But the whole class erupted in laughter. I think I saw the teacher chuckle a bit. But I just said, "Um, it feels... bad." What else could I say? I was only 11 and couldn't articulate my feelings well. Problems would have been solved better individually instead of shared with the class, but those fools didn't think of that. And the funniest thing was last year, I saw a newspaper article in the Washington Post commending the school and that specific program. I think I laughed for an hour after I read the article, including the quote from the principle that, "It works like a charm!". Oh the hilarity. Anyway, fuck that school and everyone in it.
Oh and about Matt, I saw him in middle school rise to the ranks of Mr. Popularity, and had a lot of people around him in school at all times. He had the same route as me to school, so I saw him with his friends, kicking dogs, smoking, and yelling obscenities at people walking by. Last year, when I was a senior, I found he died in a car crash two miles from high school. One of his friends, who was high at the time, was driving and lost control of the car. When the kids were discussing that in English class, about Matt's death, I almost went nuts when a kid went, " Yeah, he was such a nice kid, he had such a promising future. This is such a shame." I'm definitely not sad about his death and actually smile at that fact. Sometimes I feel like a horrible person for doing so, but I'll never forgive him for what he did. I hope he's burning in hell now. I know that's rather cold, but the bottom line is, he got what was coming to him, he deserved it. There is justice in the world.
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