I’ve always liked to view myself as an honest blogger – as many bloggers do. Many bloggers also share stories about hard experiences in life. Things they are not so proud of. Things that fill them with shame. Most of the time, they are the victim in this experience. In what I am about to talk about, I was not the victim. I was the bully.
I think it’s important to talk about things like this, too. Because we all do things that we are ashamed of and sometimes make terrible choices. So here goes. I’m not sharing this as a way to own up and let go of what happened, to find closure, because that’s probably not something I deserved. I am sharing to talk about how it changed me and shaped me.
I grew up in a town called Doncaster. It’s a typical white working class town and almost everyone was caucasian. Growing up, I don’t remember being around much racism. My parents taught me to be nice to everyone. That was that. I was brought up calling the corner shop the Paki shop, like everyone else and the Chinese take away was known as getting a chinky. Nobody battered and eyelid at these sayings. It was just how things always were. There were no bad intentions and meanings behind the words. It was just a way to describe something.
I had two friends that lived on the bottom of my street. I started hanging around with them when I was about 8. They were a bad influence on me and many ways and when I was around them, my behaviour changed to mirror theirs as I was desperate to be accepted. This isn’t the only bad thing I did when I was friends with them, but it’s probably the worst. I thought they were cool. I thought I was not cool. So I was constantly trying to prove myself.
Their dad was racist.
On our street, there was an Indian family. The had 4 or 5 girls and the ones our age went to our school. The ones older went to the high school.
I was about 9 at this point and my mum had just started letting me walk to school with my two friends. We would often see the Indian girls. One day, one of my friends shouted ‘paki’ across at them. Then, for a few weeks, we would shout it and laugh when we saw them.
The girls never said anything back.
One day, I was walking home from school on my own and the Indian girls caught up to me and blocked my path. As you can imagine, I absolutely shit myself as a couple of the girls were a lot older than me. Also, I am a coward. Not so big and hard now my friends weren’t there to make me feel all brave. Nobody to show off to. Just me, surrounded by people I had not been kind to.
They could have hurled abuse at me. They could have pushed me, hit me, swore at me. But they didn’t.
One of the older girls said to me:
‘Why do you shout that at us?’.
I had no answer. Because I didn’t know why and I knew I was wrong.
After a bit of silence, we walked home together. It was a bit of an awkward walk home because I wasn’t feeling very good about myself. I had shouted names at this girls and they responded simply by asking why and then asking me to walk home with them. After we got past their house, I said bye to them.
After that, every time I saw them I made eye contact with them, smiled and said hello.
Shouting names at someone for no reason at all – or to show off in front of your friends, is not acceptable at all and it’s an awful feeling knowing I did that. Yes, I was 9 years old, but I should have known better. The shame I felt when they confronted me is something that’s never left me. And it’s the fact that I felt that shame right away that I know I should have known better. But it’s an experience I am glad I had because it taught me many lessons. Those girls really earned my respect that day.
The problem is, they shouldn’t have had to earn it, should they?
Now I treat every person with respect and continue to do so unless they do something to warrant losing it.
If I ever have children, I hope to teach the to be better than I was.