A few days ago, a former schoolmate sent me a link to this article by journalist Cat Rakowski. The article tells a story about the author — a young Asian woman who was bullied as a child because of her race. Rakowski reached out to the bully (now a grown man) on Facebook and confronted him about his racist behavior. Almost immediately, she received a heartfelt apology which helped to relieve decades of pain and resentment.
If you've read about my project, you know I've decided to limit my interviews to women classmates for now. Yet, several years ago, I did reach out to a "boy" bully to ask him about why he, his younger brothers and their friends bullied me and my sister when we were kids.
My bully and his brothers (also bullies) lived across the street from me and my family.
We knew there would be trouble as soon as we moved in and my father met the boys' mother. She said her dog (a huge St. Bernard) didn't like "blacks or men with beards." My father, who has a beard and dislikes racists, was immediately turned off. He assumed correctly that our new neighbors didn't like Jews either.
Not only did the boys and all the friends who hung out at their house call us "kikes" (a slur for Jewish people), they also made gorilla noises and gestures at us every time they saw us. My maiden name was "Grill" so I assume that's where they got gorilla.
At my 16th birthday, one of them through a rock through our front window where we were gathered for cake and ice cream. Anytime I walked by them on the street or in the halls at school I was terrorized.
Fast forward and I'm in my early 50s. I saw that some of my former classmates are starting a Facebook group with people from our high school. I messaged a friend in the group and said "I could never be part of a group that would have ____ in the group." My friend (wisely) reminded me that decades had passed since I was bullied by those boys. "Maybe he's changed," he said. So I did what Rakowski did. I messaged my bully and asked them why he and his brothers had treated me and my family the way they did. Within 10 minutes I received a response. The bully apologized profusely. He said he had behaved terribly to many people and had wanted to apologize sooner but was too embarrassed to do so. He wrote, "You seem to have a really good life and I'm really happy for you. I don't expect you to be my friend, but I wish you the best." So I friended him! It made my day and lay the groundwork for my project which began about five years later!
Have you faced bullying because of your race, religion or sexual orientation. I'd love to hear from you!