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Sunday, October 14, 2012

Bully Story-Set Aside by Katrina Byrd

To share your story to encourage others to hopefully open up and share their issues is hard. But I can only believe that a good story can definitely make an impact. My only hope is that it allows others to share.
Today I have Katrina Byrd who has generously shared a story like mentioned above.
Set Aside
A young girl silenced by bulling grew into a confident woman with strength, faith and implants.
“It’s been a year since I got the implants,” I say to a room of teachers during a workshop titled The Story
Recipe that I facilitated during the Whole Schools’ Initiative  Summer Institute. The main goal of the workshop was share teaching strategies with teachers to help their students tell their own stories. 
Every teacher sits on the edge of her seat as I speak. “I had a horrible time in school,” I say as I walk around the room with my head held high, chest lifted and with my pink boa slung around my shoulders. “I was bullied in school.”
 As I look into the curious eyes and attentive faces I feel weird.   It’s not normal for me to be accepted by others.  The entire room is quiet.  I take a deep breath then I tell my story.
One evening during my senior year of high school I sat quietly in sixth period while the class laughed at Loretta.  She was slumped forward in her desk with her nose inches from an open book .  The laughter increased when she took a pair of glasses from her purse.  After she put the glasses on she lifted the book to her face.  “That cockeyed heifer can’t even see and she’s wearing glasses!” Loretta said pointing at me.
 “At least I’m not stupid,” I said angrily.  Loretta’s dramatizations were a daily occurrence.  Each day she said whatever she wanted about me and there was laughter from the students and no response from the teacher. 
“Did she say something?” Loretta asked.  “I know she didn’t say nothin’ to me!”  The laughter stopped. Everyone waited to see what would happen next.
Growing up I learned to live with the constant verbal abuse.  I was born with congenital cataracts and my eyes didn’t focus together.  One eye went one way and the other eye went the other direction.  For me bullying is just a catch all label for the act of breaking down the human soul – terrorism. 
That evening in my sixth period class the situation escalated when Loretta walked over to my desk.  “I know YOU didn’t say anything to me,” she said as she stood in front of me with her hands on her hips. “Don’t you hear me talking to you?  Are you deaf too?”  There was more laughter from the class and more silence from the teacher who stood at the board with her back to us pretending not to hear.
I was prepared to take care of things had Loretta put her hands on me but the popular thought back then was that if you hadn’t been hit then no crime had been committed.   It has been my experience that throwing a punch in a situation like this  usually landed the person being bullied in trouble rather than the bully.  So I learned to be quiet.  Many mistook my silence for fear and weakness.  I was neither.  I was embarrassed. I was uncomfortable in my own skin; ashamed of my own body.  Loretta was right.  I was cockeyed. 
 “Aww, Loretta. Leave the girl alone,” somebody finally said.  “You know she can’t see.”  There was more laughter from the students and more silence from the teacher.
            “That’s right, she can’t see!” Loretta said laughing along with the others then she bent toward me till our faces were inches apart and she said, “Cockeyed heifer!”  She made several more comments as she went back to her desk.
This was a common scene during my school days. 
            “The captain gave out a loud odor and all of the men disappeared.”  This was the sentence I strained to read from the chalkboard when I was in the sixth grade.
“You know that’s not right,” Miss Gray said angrily.  “Read it again and read it correctly!”
I was seated at the very front of the classroom.  I was closer to the board than the teacher’s desk.  I reread the sentence and figured the word was probably order and not odor.
Until I was an adult, I always thought of bullying as mean kids insulting nice kids.  Now my thought is that bullying wasn’t just done by the children. 
When I was in the second grade I overheard my second grade teacher talking to a group of children during reading time.  “Don’t slump forward in your desk like Katrina does,” she said as she and the students she was working with turned to look at me.  She didn’t mention to the children that I was born differently and holding the book close to my face was the only way I could read. 
A few years ago I was helping set up for a workshop.  I lifted a chair and realized its leg was bent.  “Something is wrong with this chair,” I said.  “I’m going to sit it to the side.”  Immediately I wondered about what I’d just done and applied it to my experience.  Something was wrong with so I was set aside.  I appeared to others as deficient, inept, unable to be anything but a person to be set aside.  Was this why I wasn’t cast in school plays?  Is this why I was never accepted to sing in the performing choir or included in the dance numbers?  Is this why I no one wanted me on their teams during recess?
For years I’ve lived my life as if there was something wrong me.  When I go to job interviews  people ask me if I can see or they tell me that I can’t see well enough to the job.  I have been on jobs where my co-workers loudly announce, “Handicapped people are the worse people to work with.”
What’s worse than the verbal beat down are those who say, “You can’t change the system so uh..uh…” No one likes to complete the sentence because the words aren’t pretty. 
Five years ago I began a series of surgeries that corrected my eyes and I now have lens implants which has corrected my vision a lot.  When I tell my story I am often asked if I go back to those who were awful to me and show them my new eyes.  My answer is, “NO!”
I have seen some of them but it is a chance meeting, noting I’ve initiated.  If I had my way I’d never see them again. But what I find amazing is that when do happen to bump into one of them they can’t even tell what’s different about me.
-Katrina Byrd


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