When Name calling isno longer fun
I grew up at a time when people did not acknowledge diversity thatmuch. The issue of globalization and intensified human movement wasstill not present in my small town in China where I was raised. Thelocal population had not been exposed to people from differentnationalities with apparent differences such as skin color and otherphysical attributes. Therefore, anything above the standard was notonly conspicuous but also viewed as abnormal. I observed this throughthe name given to my childhood friend Lee when we were young.Although we were age mates, Lee happened to be way tall for his age,something that many people were eager to point out and make himidentify with it.
His height ended up being the source of his name calling. He wasbranded not one name but several names that highlighted his heightand his unusually big feet. Ideally, the names given were meant tomock him and make him the butt of jokes. Some of the names were “bigfoot” and “giraffe.” Although Lee was big in size and all that,he was soft hearted. In fact, some parents were afraid that he wouldturn into a bully among his friends as he tossed his weight around.However, this was not the case. Lee was a victim of bullying fromsmaller kids. Some of them would hide behind hedges and shout hisnames like Giraffe and Big foot among other nasty names.Interestingly, Lee did not react to these name calling events anybully-like manner. He would just ignore them.
However, even adults constantly reminded him of his height which madehim more conscious of his height. In elementary school grade one, ourclass teacher always appointed Lee to erase the blackboard because hewas tall and thus could reach the uppermost corner. Although theteacher was innocent, other students found it hilarious. Again, Iremember that when were riding bicycles in the neighborhood orplaying any sort of games, Lee was likely to be left out. Standingalmost five feet at the age of eight made many of us feeluncomfortable playing with him. His height did not even allow him toride our bikes comfortably. Any attempt to sit in one of our bikesresulted in an awkward posture which would result in a stream ofother unpleasant names and unending jokes. As such, he most likelywatched as others played.
Lee’s reaction to these incidences was not happy at all. At first,he would become angry when any of the smaller kids made jokes abouthis height or branded him names. I remember at one time when we werein grade four during break time that Lee was involved in a fight witha smaller classmate. The case was reported to the class teacher andit was clear that the teacher had already assumed that Lee was theguilty party because of his size. This was in spite of the fact thatLee has been provoked when the kid hit him with stone. The kidclaimed that he wanted to see whether he could throw a stone over thehead of Lee but hit him by mistake.
As time progressed, Lee realized that he was slowly losing the waragainst name calling. He started to show no reaction to the names. Infact, he seemed to care less when a bunch of other kids chided himand made jokes at his cost. But it was clear to me that some thingswere changing. He became more inclined to spending time alone at hishouse and avoiding people. He preferred playing inside on his gameconsole in his room. Whenever I visited him, he would insist on usplaying alone and not engaging other kids who had made it a routineto make fun of him at any given moment. Spending so much time aloneaffected Lee’s social skills as he became less interactive in classand with other people.
Additionally, I observed that Lee changed his posture. Whenever hewas standing or even walking, he somehow slouched and curved his backto hide his height. It was clear even to the class teacher whoobserved that his height was bothering. He was very notable to anyother teacher and children such that almost everybody knew him byname. This was not because he was popular or he had some specialskills but simply because he was way taller than his age mates andclassmates. Some people had even made it a joke to ask about his age.They did not understand why he was hanging out with kids way youngerthan him. To cover up for such awkward questions, Lee had chosen anunhealthy posture. Afterwards he stopped coming to school altogether.He confessed to me and his parents that he could not handle the namecalling any more. Eventually, Lee’s family moved away to anothertown and we lost touch.
However, what he had to go through taught me important lessons aboutname calling. The idea of stereotyping and branding other peoplenames that reflect on their race, ethnicity, skin color, physicalappearance, dressing or any other physical attributes is wrong. Suchbehavior strips down such people all the aspects of their identityand character to just one physical attribute. Like in the case ofLee, he was just a tall boy or a giraffe to many people. This islikely to have negative physical, social and psychologicalconsequences. As such, name calling should be discouraged andavoided at all times.