Supporting Anti-Bullying: My Personal Story
This post, Supporting Anti-Bullying: My Personal Story, was originally published over a year ago on my other blog that I am unfortunately saying farewell to. This story is really important to me so I wanted to share it here on DIY Inspired. I have also copy and pasted the comments from the original post.
I’ve never really talked about this before. Probably because I suppressed it for over 20 years and just never felt the need to address it… until today. Here is why moving forward, I am supporting the Anti-Bullying Movement along the side of Compassion Brands, who gave me the courage to write about this and sponsored this article.
Before I begin…
I want to start by saying I love my home town. I grew up with an amazing group of friends who I still talk to today. Those friends and their parents were also my family and still are. I had a fantastic time in High School, especially. I was President of student government, a captain of the cheer leading squad, and was even on the Homecoming Court. I had an extremely supportive network of people that made me who I am today.
This article is just about two boys that had power over me as a child and held that power over me as an adult, whether they knew it or not.
I grew up in a small town, about 20K people. Today, the population there is 89.99% White, 5.8% Black, 0.9% Hispanic, and 0.8% Asian. That means there are about 169 Asian Americans living in my home town. That’s today. Thirty years ago, when I lived there, there were even fewer Asians. Because of this, I grew up being very aware that I was Asian. Everywhere I went, I thought about being Asian. When I first walked into a room, when I was roaming around the mall, or if I was at a football game, I thought about being Asian.
I remember being at a gift shop in high school and the cashier turned to my friend and said “Is that there one of them foreign exchange students?” Enough said.
In elementary school I was bullied severely. Well, it was severe to me. In first and second grade I attended a private Catholic school and I had to ride the bus. Every day to and from school, a boy named Shane, who was six years older than me, called me names. EVERY DAY. He was tall with a bowl haircut and his bangs covered his bushy eyebrows. He had a mole on his face and a prominent square jaw. His brown polyester uniform pants were always just a little too short. We had assigned seats and he sat directly behind me. I hated it. I remember the daily agony of being scared to ride the bus to school and get back on to go home. Sometimes he’d push me on my shoulder as he walked passed. I recall looking at the bus driver in the rear view mirror praying for eye contact so many times hoping he would see Shane’s actions or hear his words just once. Maybe he did. Who knows?
One day, Shane grabbed my hand and dug his nails into it as hard as he could.
He looked at me and said, “Did that hurt, Chink?”
I felt my eyes well up in tears but I held it all in and quietly just said no. I turned back around in my front seat and stared out the window the rest of the way home vowing never to tell anyone what just happened. I hugged my hand close to my neck in a fist because it hurt so much. When I got home there was blood on the white rounded collar of my uniform lapel. I still have a scar on my hand today. Every time I look at it, I think of him. Looking back it was strange because I didn’t feel angry. Rather, I was sad, not because he hurt me but because I was Asian. At that time, I didn’t even know that the negative slang term “Chink” referred to Chinese people. I just knew that I was Filipino and Asian and that’s what he was referring to.
It was a bad thing to be Asian and I was ashamed of being one.
In the third grade I transferred to a public school that I could walk to. By then, my older brother was in High School so I walked to school by myself, through the woods, and past a residential street. I was relieved that I was going to a new school closer to home. On my first day, I was almost to school, when a boy also much older than me, started yelling and screaming “chink” and “jap” at me while making noises like he was speaking in Chinese. I turned and looked and he was looking out the window of his house. I ran the rest of the way to school. This continued to happen almost daily for two years. Some days, I would just hear “ching chang ching chong” out the side window of the house, other days he would be brave enough to come outside and taunt me. Luckily, it never escalated to more than just words, but they still hurt. Eventually it stopped but only because the boy had moved.
Throughout the rest of my years growing up in that small town, I experienced some racism and a lot of ignorance. I never fought back (at least I don’t recall that I did) and I never talked about it. I suppressed it.
My parents would visit the Philippines for vacation and my brother and I never wanted to go. I know my brother was bullied worse because he is a boy. We didn’t care to learn about our culture, or the language, and wanted to be as far away from it as possible. When I moved to Southern California after high school, I was shocked by the diversity here. I remember calling home and saying, “wow! there are a lot of Asians here.” It wasn’t until my late twenties that I believe I finally started accepting how I looked. When I eventually went to the Philippines myself, immersed myself into the culture, and met several of my amazing relatives, I started realizing that I shouldn’t suppress being different anymore, rather I should embrace it.
Now I just laugh.
The last time I went back home to visit just last year, one of my best friend’s little girls referred to me as “the Chinese lady”. It wasn’t awkward and it didn’t hurt; I knew she didn’t mean anything by it. She was just unfamiliar and I understand that.
Maybe those two boys just didn’t know.
I feel like there is SO much more to my story, but I’ll end it here… for now.
Why bring it up today?
Now that I am a mother with a child soon to embark on her elementary school journey I don’t want her to…well…be me at that age. If she experiences anything similar, which she may, I want her to be able to stand up for herself and stop the bullying before it continues like in my case for years. I want her to be able to come to me and her father and talk about it. I want her to be proud of her ethnicity, feel honor, and be curious about where she came from. I want to give her strength and hope.
This is why I am proud to support and revel behind Compassion Brands.
Compassion Brands was created to build consciousness around bullying and its ever present lasting negative effects on children, teens, and adults. The company is on a mission to help end bullying by designing jewelry with the universal symbol for “NO”, signifying the brands goal of putting an end to bullying forever. The jewelry not only creates awareness behind this epidemic, but Compassion Brand also donates proceeds from every item sold to the anti-bullying movement. Compassion seeks to make what you wear, make a difference and literally make it fashionable to be compassionate.
I don’t look at the scar on my hand very often anymore, and I’m glad. It took 20 years to fade. Instead, I can wear this necklace and wear it proud. It’s so beautiful that people stop and ask me where I got it. I am proud to tell them about Compassion Brands and the six causes they support including ACTive Kindness, Anti Bully, Generation Kind, Skate Against Hate, Compassion, and Paws*itive Action. This necklace is part of the Compassion Collection and is among several beautifully made and SUPER CUTE necklaces, bracelets, and earrings.
Join me is supporting the anti-bullying movement. For more information on any of these causes, please visit http://www.compassionbrands.com/.
Thank you for taking the time to read my story and a big THANK YOU to Compassion Brands for sponsoring this post.
Oh my gosh!! I’m so sorry you had to go through this. And I’m glad you’re my friend! Great post!
Dinah, I’m so sorry that you had to go through this! Bullying is far too common, but it’s been wonderful to see so many kind, compassionate adults helping to shed light on this important topic over the last few years. I work for Kidpower, an organization that offers workshops and resources to stop bullying, assault, abduction and abuse. Our website is http://www.kidpower.org. There are lots of ways that we can all help kids (and teens and adults) who are facing bullying, and educating ourselves is the first step. Thank you for your courage in sharing your story – I hope it inspires others!
Love you, Dinah! Growing up, I knew that you were insecure about your ethnicity, but I never knew that you carried that weight around with you everyday. I’m sorry that I didn’t know because I would have tried to help—I don’t know how, but I would have tried. It is hard growing in our town and now raising children here as well, while at the same time trying to teach them that differences are what make us special. Rather than being embarrassed when one of my kids asks about a person’s skin color or facial features, I allow them to recognize their differences. Just the other day Kiana said (quite loudly too), “She has really brown skin.” And I said, “Yes, she does. Isn’t it beautiful?” Hopefully, more and more kids will learn to embrace their differences, and actually regardless of what we look like, we are all more alike than different. LOVE YOU and can’t wait to see you!!
Dinah, your post made me tear of because as I’m reading it, I imagined Mia going through all that 🙁 I’m so sorry you had to go through anything like that and I hope that our kids & kids behind them learn that it doesn’t matter what race you are, how much money you have, what your sexual orientation is…we’re all people and deserve love & respect. Love you girl!
To quote Dickens, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” I think I had such a hard time, not just because I was an Asian boy, but because I was a very effeminate Asian boy. I always got all the gay voice taunts, the limp wrist taunts, as well as the Hiya! and accompanying karate chops in school hallways. I had many MANY specific tormentors as well, and I never thought you knew about any of it. I did know about Shane and the Norris “boy”, but I found out about them after the fact. It broke my heart that you were going through something similar to me.
There was so much in our little town that I really didn’t like, and at the same time, I have so many friends there that I’m always excited to go back there to visit. I suppose in a way, this shows that love, kindness, and compassion can overcome evil. I was a scared little kid who grew into a very insecure youth. Like you, it wasn’t until I lived in SoCal for a few years that I learned that it didn’t have to be that way, although to tell you the truth, Irvine, California in all it’s entitled whiteness was not very easy to take. I remember there were 2 little girls who would follow any Asians around the grocery store (then an Alpha Beta) and do that “ching chong” jibberish that you referred to, and THEIR MOTHER WOULD ACTUALLY LAUGH WITH THEM. (Ok, quick confession, I hit one of those little girls with my cart. Hard.)
I went down a unique path to get rid of the insecurity, and constant need to watch my back on the lookout for possible “harassers”. First, there was you. You always had wonderful, loving things to say about me, to me. When I was younger, I never knew how to take them. Your comments at first made me uncomfortable even as supportive as they were. Eventually, realizing how lovely you are, and discovering how much I respected you, your support became key in knocking down those insecurities. I always thought, “I had better deal with this stuff, just in case Dinah needs my help with this later”.
Then, in learning to value my own spirit I learned to value the human spirit in general. This didn’t make me some Gandhi-type, hyper-aware/compassionate guru, but it DID make any taunting seem much smaller. Eventually to the point where it would just take me by surprise and the hurt would be minimized to a quick sting. The humor in the situation became much more accessible. Yes, I started to see humor. Size is sort of like time. Tragedy + Time = Comedy. And in this case, the smaller some problems seem, the funnier they became. For me, the funnier these barbs became, the easier it was to put them in their proper perspective.
All that lead to a need to support and protect others. Because of you and people like you in my life, I was able to find a very stable sense of self amongst a storm of -isms and phobias. In finding this, I also found a certain need to be a part of the solution, and part of whatever force could overcome bullying and cruelty. My voice is no longer as silent as it used to be. I don’t guard my kindness as much as I used to. I still have a long way to go, but I’m happy with my journey. Honestly, it was a journey that started with the confidence and support my little sister so generously and consistently gave to me.
Thanks Dinah. I actually like who I am today, and I want you to know how much you had to do with this. Especially after your post. Labu!
Dinah, I love you. You are truly an amazing person! Mia will have nothing to worry about with you as a her parent. The way you are with her, creating such a caring foundation she will come to you in her time of needs. I love the message from this company. Thanks for sharing.
You are one heck of a woman. This story brought tears to my eyes and if possible, made you more beautiful than I already thought you were. I’m lucky to know you and even better to call you a friend. I’m glad these terrible expierences mad you stronger rather than bringing you down and by sharing them I believe you were able to help others. You really are an incredible person for being able to open up and share.
I only ever thought of you as a beautiful person both inside and out! Well…at times you were way too giggly with my sister…bullying is so wrong-kids are bullied everyday for every possible reason:(. Shame on Shane.
Dinah, thank you so much for sharing your story. Moving to the United States from the Philippines during a time of racial tension, I too experienced not-so-kind comments, stares, and physical taunting. You and I, although separated by a couple decades, lived in the same small town. I lived in two previous states prior to Maryland, and also received similar treatments. My parents were unaware of the bullying and expected us to be strong and overcome behavior as such, or they would brush off any complaints we had. However, as a sensitive young child, I internalized my feelings and felt very insecure about myself. My older brother also received similar treatment internalizing his feelings, however my older sister who had a stronger personality, was able to rise to the occasion and prove that she was better than the petty comments. As a mother of two beautiful girls, I have encouraged them to turn negative treatment from others into something positive. We pray for the tormentors and confront them with kind words. My husband always tells them to “kill them with kindness”, that way they will realize they can’t get the reaction they want from you and eventually realize they’re wrong. My kids and I have a very open communication between us which really helps. I want them to know that we are ALWAYS here for them, that they are special and unique, and loved by God and their family. I tell them that people who feel the need to put others down often are very insecure about themselves. As a mother of girls, it’s very important to me to empower them with good virtues and encourage independence and uniqueness. “Being the same as others is boring, but being different is unique. A unique person will leave their mark in this world!” From what I can see, you are doing a great job raising your beautiful daughter. Thank you for bringing awareness to this issue that is so personal to me! ❤️
Dinah, you are every bit as beautiful on the inside as on the out. I’m glad to call you a friend. Thanks for sharing.
I’m sorry to hear your story, but so happy that you grew to love & accept your heritage! I only remember you as being beautiful & confident! It appears, my perception is still true! Thank you for sharing. It is a reminder that we never know the struggles each & every one of us endures.
Thank you for sharing your story! I grew up in Southern California and luckily never experienced racism or bullying as I am Asian American. My dad and his family are all from Hong Kong and I never thought for a second that they were different from anyone else, except when they spoke Cantonese. Now as an adult, I’ve traveled to different parts of the country where the population is predominately white and people ask me “what I am”. At first I didn’t understand the question! I’m glad that my kids are going up here in SoCal where I did and hope that they never experience bullying from their peers!
I am from the same town you grew up in. My son is a good friend of your brother. I really respect your family and am so sorry that you went through school like this. Your dad is a good friend of mine too. I am totaly against bulling in any form. have a very merry Christmas and give Mia our best. Love the B.family
Thank you for your kind words, Theresa! I hope you and your family have a wonderful Christmas and Happy New Year!
I found your blog because I was looking at a list of the 25 best upcycling blogs. I got excited to see your face, one that looks like my own. And then to read your story of having been racially bullied by some of your peers. You should never have had to experience that. I am certain you are teaching your children that they can get help and they don’t have to just endure such mistreatment. Along with being a fellow upcycler (I’m an interior redesigner and will be launching a website and blog in the upcoming months), I also volunteer with Ugnayan Youth for Justice and Social Change, a Filipino youth organization in New York City. We are developing a campaign to address institutional bullying in schools. Perhaps you might be interested in working with us on the campaign?
Hi Cecilia! I would love to hear more about this campaign. Please email me at email@example.com. I look forward to hearing from you.