A few years ago a friend told me something that left me perplexed. There was no bullying in our small school, she said. She never saw any, anyway, and so because she hadn't seen it, she was adamant …
A few years ago a friend told me something that left me perplexed. There was no bullying in our small school, she said. She never saw any, anyway, and so because she hadn't seen it, she was adamant that it just never happened.
As a bullied child whose crimes were being both overweight and overly nerdy, I didn't just see the bullying in our small town school. I felt it on a near daily basis.
It happened. She didn't have to have seen it for it to be my lived truth. What she needed to do was see me, to hear my story.
Now as more Black folks come out to share stories of racism they encountered in their childhoods growing up in our small towns, even more white folks are jumping in to cast doubt on their stories.
“I never heard anyone use the n-word,” I've heard over and over and over again in recent weeks. Or “well, I never saw anyone be mean to the Black kids in our school.”
Perhaps they didn't see it. Perhaps they didn't hear it.
But the Black folks telling those stories? They saw it. They heard it. They felt it.
Someone else's lack of awareness doesn't make their stories any less true.
Growing up in a small town, at times it can feel like our lives are being lived within walls made of glass. Secrets are spilled. Rumors spread faster than the common cold. The people around us seem to know all and to see all.
But we don't really see all or know all, do we?
I know I never saw anyone smoke pot in the bathroom in my small school. Think it didn't happen? Some student records would prove you wrong.
I never saw the drinking and carousing that went on at parties I wasn't invited to or saw male students roughed up in the boys locker room.
Yes, it all happened. Even without me there to see it, it happened.
We see only what it is we are there to see.
Even then most of us are myopic, heads down, focused on that which pertains to us, making us completely oblivious to events occurring right beneath our very noses. We see what we care to see and what our brains are prepared to take in. We filter out the rest.
What we don't see, we don't hear, what we filter out are all still there, all still true. We just need to be willing to see the people telling us about them, to hear them out.
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