Friday, November 25, 2011

Big bad bullies in the playground

Last weekend, while Vito and I were at the playground, I witnessed a most shocking thing: a group of boys, 7- or 8-years-old, started bullying a little girl. One girl vs a group of boys. They started by calling her, "Black devil!" The girl, also 7 or 8, is Iranian.

I live in a complex where the foreigners seem to outnumber the locals. There are Americans (whites and blacks), Japanese, Koreans, Indians, Iranians, and a lot of other races--I just figure it out when they open their mouths and talk. Quite a few celebrities are my neighbors, too. Anyway, I guess with the mix of many races in one place, racism was bound to happen.

At first, the Iranian girl (I know her name but I won't say it) sat quietly on her bike, trying to ignore the boys. But when one of them pushed her off the bike and another shouted, "Go away, black devil!" to her face, the girl grabbed her shoe and smacked the sole right at her tormentor's ear. The boys went wild with fury. The girl ran away but then realized she had left behind her bike so she hesitated at the edge of the playground.

The boys took their water guns (those huge things that shoot out long jets of water), went to the pool and filled them up. One of the boys was told to guard the bike. All the while, they were talking about "getting her." As the boys were at the pool, three Korean boys were edging around the bike. Then the other boys came back, shouting insults and brandishing their water guns. They chased the girl off. Meanwhile, the Korean boys got the bike and started following the group of howling boys.

I followed, too. I had had enough. I stayed out of it because, well, I honestly didn't know what to do! But the boys had guns now, water guns yes, but they didn't just mean to hurt with words now; they were intent on doing violence. I grabbed Vito and chased after them. Just in time. I caught them circling the girl. She was already wet and cowering. My blood is still boiling now!

I gave those boys a tongue-lashing alright. I told them to stop. I told them to put away those guns. I looked at them one by one, called their names, and said, "You have sisters! What did your parents tell you about treating girls? You're supposed to treat girls right. You're supposed to protect them!" I told them they ought to be ashamed of themselves, that they should play fair, that they should treat everyone--whatever skin color or gender--right. Then I told them to go home. And they ran away.

The Korean boys came up to me and said, "We were going to keep her bike safe and return it to her." And I thanked them but I also added that if they see something wrong, they should step right in and stop it. Then the girl got her bike and she was crying non-stop now. I told her, "Please don't let anyone ever treat you like this. You always have to fight back!" But she just looked at me, forlorn, and said, "Nothing's going to change. It will always be like this."

In the elevator, as Vito and I went home, I cried. I was so upset and angry and sad. Upset because those boys, I know those boys! They used to be sweet little things like my Vito. They used to play with my rabbit, Galady. I guess I was upset because I was scared Vito might become like them one day.

I was also angry at the injustice done to that girl and sad that she just accepted it. I was sad that these horrible things start at such a young age. I know bullying happens, not just now but since time immemorial. I was bullied, too. But how do you teach your child not to be a bully? How do you teach him to stand up to bullies?

Even though he's only a year old, I had to explain what happened to Vito. After all, he was there the entire time, watching the whole horror, watching me scolding those boys in a voice he's never heard me use before. I told my son that night, "Vito, the world isn't always a happy place. There are a lot of wrongs out there. I will always hope that you will always know and do what is right. I want you to never turn away from these wrongs. If you see injustice, you must always do your best to stop it." And my little boy looked at me gravely. I like to think he understood.

20 comments:

  1. My blood is boiling reading this! Good thing you gave those bullies a piece of your mind, Frances!

    You are right, no one should turn their backs on things like this. Some people would say it isn't our business. But the welfare and safety of children are everyone's business. And I hope that little girl will never allow anyone to treat her like that ever again.

    I'm pretty sure your Vito will grow up to be kind. He has you as his Mom, after all. :)

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  2. Oh my gosh good thing you were there, Frances! I feel bad for the little girl. I was bullied when I was young, too, because of my dark skin. :( Ugh I hate those boys!

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  3. This is sad; it's also proof that we are all flawed as human beings, no matter how young or innocent we are as kids. :( I am livid with anger over what happened! Were those boys bullying her Filipino? Shame on them!

    One thing I learned growing up away from our country (and going to several international schools throughout that whole time) is that we are all children of God. In school, we were taught that diversity was beautiful, that the world could be healed by unity. And so when I hear stories like this, I feel shattered because I see that there are still so many people out there who hate--for no reason at all, or because no one taught them any better. :(

    You're a good mom, Frances, and I applaud you for standing up for the little girl. You did what many would have omitted or passed over; Vito is very fortunate to have a mom like you. I know you will be a stalwart guardian, and that he will learn goodness and compassion from you. I wish more moms in your neighborhood were as brave as you!

    Sorry if my reply's all over the place; still can't get over what you just shared :(

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  4. Martine, I didn't want to put what races the boys belonged to because I didn't want people commenting about how that race is really like that and so on. But, nope, they weren't just Filipino. There were other boys from different racial backgrounds, too. Needless to say, these boys didn't have dark skin.

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  5. thank you for standing up for that little girl.

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  6. You were an angel to that little girl. Over the years, she'll definitely forget your name, your face. But I'm sure she'll remember that day for the rest of her life. I got picked on in grade school too but not as bad as that. My husband's the one who's got the bullying tales to share... Breaks my heart to hear such stories.

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  7. Being pregnant means you'll be more emotional, too, so it only makes sense that you were super affected by this. My daughter is 21 months old and ALWAYS gets bullied at the playground. :( I hope that one day, when she starts to talk properly, she'll learn to fight back, as well. For now, I do the protecting as much as possible

    http://wonderwomanrises.blogspot.com

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  8. naiyak ako reading this. :( Thanks for sharing Frances. I hope the Universe and God! treat these kids right (as so they rightfully deserve) --- and their parents most specially! *sigh*

    hindi ko na alam pa ang sasabihin ko. grabe. :(

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  9. I am so bothered. I feel so bad for the girl because when she goes back to the playground tomorrow, she might experience the same thing. I wonder if her parents are aware.

    Were the yaya's just watching?

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  10. Good on you, Frances, for standing up for that little girl and giving those boys a tongue-lashing. I hope with all my heart that the little girl takes what you said to heart and she learns to stand up for herself. The sad truth is that you, other adults or other (nicer) kids won't always be there to stop the bullies. The bullies will only stop if they know she'll fight back.

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  11. So nice of you Frances to really stand up and give those boys a real lesson! To call her a black devil must have been tormenting for her young age, plus the violence they carried out.

    Hug for you and may that little girl remember you forever.

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  12. Sadly bullying has always been around. Not just in kids actually but that is a whole other story. Good for you for standing up for the girl. Bullies need to be told off and you absolutely did the right thing. Sure it was just a water gun but it is still violent and it is still wrong.

    I hope you also told their parents exactly what they were doing. So they know that there is zero tolerance for racial prejudice. Unfortunately kids many times learn these sort of things at home.

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  13. I suppose talking to their parents are out of the question, right? Parents tend to get very defensive with their children. :(

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  14. aaawww...i felt bad for the girl. but what you did is correct. me when my girls where starting to go to school in kindergarten, I told them NEVER START A FIGHT. BUT NEVER RUN FROM ONE. i know, i know but what am I going to do. I am a housewife, i do all the chores by myself, so I teach my daughters when to "fight back" and when to just turn their back. It is up to us parents how are we going to teach our children about other kids. eh palaban pa man din ako. hahaha! I salute you for what you did for that girl... :)

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  15. This is very disturbing. I'm just glad you were there for the little girl. I have a little girl too -she's only 8 months now. I hope she grows up strong willed and fearless. When I hear of stories like this, it just breaks my heart. How do I, as a mother, protect her from the rest of the world?

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  16. Hi Ms. Frances, i felt bad for the little girl and bigla ko pong naisip yung 2 kids ko.. Madalas po kasi silang mag-away, and I always tell to my son that since he's the kuya he should not fight with his baby sister. That he should protect and love his baby sister. I hope my kids wont experience this, coz as a parent masakit pong makita na inaapi ang mga anak ko.

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  17. Bless you, Frances, for defending that little girl. I have a six-year-old daughter and I worry about her a lot. I also have an eight-year-old son who has a big heart. My husband and I try to teach them how to defend themselves and others by talking to them, getting their insights on scenarios where there are bullies or kids being bullied, and advising them the best course of action.

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  18. this is very disturbing! i wish the kids would learn to co-exist and respect each other's differences. if only kids can easily understand the concept of empathy, the playground would be a much safer and happier place for all of them.

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  19. i was kinda bullied coz of my dark skin also but not by other kids but my own sisters, they have fair skin while me growing up my used to be fair skin became brown skin. And now that I have a foreigner boyfriend whose natural color is darker than mine, all the more they are teasing me that "I finally belong"...for my sisters, its just for fun but i dont want my future hubby to be a laughing stuff of my sister.

    you did great in giving a piece of your mind to those bullies.

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  20. This post made me sad, angry and afraid all at the same time, Frances. I honor you for sticking up for that little girl and for doing your best to teach Vito the right values. Like Martine, I was blessed to grow up outside of the Philippines, and was more exposed to people of different races, colors and languages, so racial prejudice was not much of a big thing. It is alarming how bullying and racial discrimination is becoming more and more prevalent among kids, at younger and younger ages too! Let's pray and ACT in our own way to stamp out these things, starting in our own homes. God bless us all as we try our best, imperfect as we are, to teach our kids to do right by God and society.

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This is all pretty new to me so please feel free to share your mommy wisdom!