So I only just heard about the Bradford kid who committed suicide, and it’s pushed me to talk. I feel like I’m desensitised to all the upsetting things I see on the news; when I hear of a death it rarely moves me, but this one did. Before this, I was writing a post on the Kim Kardashian incident, but after I read about this I realised I didn’t care. Who knows, maybe I’ll get back to it one day when I’m bored.
Right now I’m here to talk about a real life, normal boy who killed himself because of real life, normal bullying.
This is a child. An 11 year old boy who committed suicide. An 11 year old Asian boy. An 11 year old Asian, Muslim boy. According to that information, this community would have thought that suicide would be unthinkable for him. That’s why it struck me so hard.
I instantly put myself in this kids place and it made me think of something that’s wrong with older generations. Thick skin is something that non-white folk especially are often forced to have, and it’s something that is drilled into the minds of innocent kids. ‘We came here, we built a life, we evolved into something tough, don’t fuck it up by being soft.’
Asian families in particular have this thing, this idea that the kids need to be toughened up from birth. It’s something that we’re so proud of, but it has me wondering – at what cost?
It’s hearing ‘when I was your age I didn’t take shit from anyone’. It’s hearing your parents, your uncles and your cousins tell you detailed stories about how they battered the racists and had more fights than they can count the hairs on their heads. It’s hearing the ferocity with which your grandmother constantly speaks about how the family came to the country and asserted their brown selves in a town full of white people, how ‘we never raised cowards.’
Our version of ‘the talk’ is that.
And I’m just listening to it, taking it with a pinch of salt.
I don’t get into fights, but I’m also not a coward. I’ve never been bullied, but then after hearing this news it got me wondering. It’s always been so simple to me, just don’t be the sort of person who gets bullied.
Some people are bullied because they’re assholes, some people are bullied because they’re innocent and easy to pick on, and I’ve always found it hard to understand how anyone couldn’t avoid either of those personas. I just wasn’t the type of person who got bullied, or bullied anyone. I didn’t care about anybody else enough. Even during my *cough* emo days, I was definitely singled out, but never bullied.
But still I wondered.
What would I have done if I was ever bullied as a child? Would I have told my parents? The answer, that had me stunned, was no. I wouldn’t tell anybody, because I’d be too embarrassed. I would not have told a single soul. Because, according to what I’ve learnt, to be bullied means you’re weak, you’re a coward, and you don’t really deserve to say you’re part of a fearless lineage.
Because as soon as you tell your family you’re being bullied, the war has begun and you’d better be prepared to have the bully and their parents, their siblings and their dog destroyed. Asian families are weird, and no matter how distant you are, nothing brings us together like an enemy threatening one of us. So the bully will be finished. It’ll be like the good old days. But then what? I’d be the bullied one, I’d be an embarrassment. Like a ‘you’re not one of us, but let me relive my heyday for you’.
My parents aren’t really like that. I remember when I was young that they would remind us to fight whoever crossed us, but we never needed to. They’ve brought us up so that we can literally do whatever we want, and I guess we’ve spent that time building ourselves rather than focusing on how to fend off everyone else, and it worked. But my grandmother and the apparent rest of my family are stuck in this time warp, as many people are.
I know this is irrelevant to the story, but this is something that has been drawn to my attention because of it. I’m thinking about the kids who are bullied, the kids who are too afraid and embarrassed to tell anybody.
I don’t want my kids to take shit from anybody. I don’t want them to be the sort of person who attracts bullies. But I don’t want them to accidentally turn into a bully either. I want them to know how to fight, but more than that I want them to just be someone that can’t be bullied.
I want them to be so immersed in building themselves that nobody would dare disrupt it.
I want my kids to be able to deal with a bully, but I’ll never make them feel like cowards for being more interested in being a child than learning how to fight everyone. Kids should be kids, not learning to live their lives in preparation for being bullied. There are fathers who belittle their sons for ‘not being a man’, and it is poison. Boys want to play video games and football, girls want to have sleepovers and watch movies. There are parents who tell their kids from a young age that they need to be able to punch someone in the face for giving them the side eye.
If my kids were ever bullied, I’d never think of them as cowards. And this is something that I see a lot of parents need to understand. I don’t want them to be too embarrassed to come to us.
Teach your kids to be strong, teach them to fight, teach them to not take shit from anybody. But, for gods sake, do not force this lifestyle upon them. You don’t want them to be feared, just respected. Kids attract the right friends when they’re being kids. It’s the ‘tough’ kids that attract the wrong crowd.
Also, pay attention to what your child is like at school and when they come home from school. As a parent, you need to snoop a little. Find out what crowd your child is hanging around. Pay attention to their moods. Stop using the word ‘coward’. Train them positively.
But then again, I don’t have kids, so what do I know.
Just remember – if your child is being bullied, the problem is not with your child. It’s with the damn bully.
Unless you’ve raised an asshole.