When Turning The Other Cheek Runs Its Course

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In 8th grade I had a bully, by the name of Mustafa. Mustafa picked on me constantly in our 7th period Science class. He picked on me because I was tall. He picked on me because I was chubby. He picked on me because I was a 'nerd'. There were even times when his taunting turned to sexual harassment, when he tried to grab my behind, on numerous occasions. I would complain to my science teacher all the time. Mustafa was sent to the principal's office on numerous occasions but nothing seemed to work. He would just come back and pick on me even more. 

My mother always told me to try to ignore him and maybe he would go away. A few friends said to try to be extra nice to him and maybe he would stop. None of that ever worked. One day as I was walking to my desk to sit in my chair, all I remember was hitting the floor, hard. Mustafa pulled the chair from underneath me as I was trying to sit down. I felt my face heat up with anger and the tears started flowing from my eyes. Between the "ohhhhhhhhhhhhs" and laughter, I tried to regain my composure to stand up. Once I stood up and turned around, it felt as though something grabbed hold of me, because all I remember is throwing a right punch dead in Mustafa's eye. That right there was what one of my 9 uncles taught me. My uncle Vincent, taught me to never hit with an open hand, and to always make sure my fist is tight.

After I knocked Mustafa out, the whole classroom fell silent. No one could believe what I had done, because I was always the quiet one. My teacher paused for a few seconds in between sips of his coffee and asked Mustafa, "So I guess you won't bother her any more?".  After spending the rest of the afternoon in the principal's office, explaining what happened, I was grateful that I didn't get suspended. The next afternoon, Mustafa walked into the classroom with his head hanging low and once he looked up, we all saw his black eye. After that incident, Mustafa, all through middle school & high school could never look me in the eye, or even acknowledged my existence. 

As a parent of a ten year old, I've told my son numerous times that violence doesn't solve anything. I explained to him that if anyone bothers him in school, to immediately tell the teacher so that they could intervene. I always figured because my son was taller than most kids his age, that more than likely he wouldn't have any bullying issues. Who knew that I'd be proven wrong last year.

His Mustafa, came in the form of a boy named Mateo. Mateo had recently relocated to Columbia, MD from Mississippi with his mother and aunt. Mateo and my son, Jaden, actually started out as friends but for some reason, Jaden turned into being Mateo's worst enemy. During class Mateo would rip my son's paper up, right in front of him. He would trip him in the hallways and make fun of him in front of their classmates. I can't even begin to count how many times I received calls from the principal letting me know that my son was being picked on. There have been countless times when I even called Mateo's mother up myself to explain to her what was going on, and to have her speak to her son, only for a week later, the same issues to arise.

A week before school ended for Summer vacation in June, I received a call from the principal once again. I answered the phone with a "what happened now?", because I knew it could only be one thing. The principal informed me that my son punched Mateo in the face during class because Mateo, once again, tripped him.  He was calling me to inform me, that disciplinary action would not be taken against my son, because the teacher and other students saw exactly what happened, and that it was obvious my son was provoked.  I told the principal that I would speak with my son, to enforce the fact that hitting was not always the answer, but this would be after I've given him a high-five for him defending himself.  One of the sayings, my grandmother always shared with me as a kid was this: 

"You  have two cheeks that you can turn, but there comes a point, when a person gets tired of turning them".

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