Thomas Wictor

I’ll take microbullying any day

I’ll take microbullying any day

I just read a blog post titled “Micro-aggression: It’s bullying,” on the Website of the American Association of People with Disabilities (AADP). The post authors are Youth Transitions Fellow Leah Katz-Hernandez and Megan Erasmus, BA in Psychology 2010 and MA in Mental Health 2012.

They list several types of micro-aggression, which they spell “microaggression” as well.

1. Microaggression: Subtle, often automatic, stereotypical, and insensitive behavior or comments or assumptions about a person’s identity, background, ethnicity, or disability.

2. Microassult: A form of verbal attack.

3. Microinsult: A form of verbal or silent demeaning through insensitive comments or behavior.

4. Microinvalidation: Essentially degrading a person’s wholeness through making false assumptions about the other’s ability, causing a sense of invalidation.

They also say the following.

The harm inflicted by micro-aggression is as equal as to overt bullying actions, which makes it powerful, serious, and “silent” threat in our nation. Sometimes, the hardest person you may have to stand up to is not the one who is an overt bully.

No. Wrong. Having experienced every possible kind of bullying—verbal, physical, psychological—from both children and adults, I can tell you that microinvalidation isn’t as harmful as having an adult beat the living crap out of you. The authors of the post themselves admit that their premise is false.

One of the most harmful things about micro-aggression is that it’s very difficult to point it out when it’s actually happening.

It’s so harmful that it’s not even perceivable! Well, I easily perceived the fists to my face. When I was in the seventh grade in Tyler, Texas, I had about eighty nervous tics, such as blinking in Morse code, sniffing, shrugging my shoulders in a certain way to give myself chills down the spine, rubbing my hands, and stuttering. One day a kid in art class made an announcement.

“Ah’m gonna draw Wictor; that’s whut Ah’m gonna do. Gonna give him greasy hair, lahk this, zits an’ a big ol’ nose, lahk that, boobs lahk a girl, a fat belly stickin’ out in front lahk this, an’ a big ass like he’s got stickin’ out in back. An’ a cruddy ol’ sweater lahk he always wears.”

He then took his drawing around the room and showed everyone, including the teacher. The students laughed and applauded, while the teacher only laughed.

Here’s a passage from Chasing the Last Whale. I’ll let you decide whether or not it’s autobiographical.

“Within the first ten seconds of my first day in the seventh grade, some guy in a black Led Zeppelin T-shirt yelled, ‘Hey, you! Potato Head! How’d you fit that head through the front door?’ The whole school heard it, I guess, because I was Potato Head for a month and then someone shortened it to Tater, and that’s what they called me for the next six years.”

Trey sipped water and peered across the street.

I stood up to pace the sidewalk. “The cool guys always had the best girls. In the seventh grade, one of the cool-guy girls was named Melanie. She was a beautiful, blue-eyed brunette who wanted me dead the instant she first saw me. I avoided her most of the time, but during one lunch period, she sat at my table in the cafeteria and publicly shredded me for fifteen minutes straight. The only thing I remember she said was, ‘You sit in the library looking at encyclopedias.’”

“Did you?” Trey asked.

“Absolutely! The illustrations were magnificent, especially in the section about the human body. It had these transparent celluloid inserts with pictures of a man you could dissect just by turning the pages. You could strip away his muscles and organs layer by layer until he was just a skeleton.”

“I remember those. I had to use them once for a biology report.”

“So as I tried to explain why I liked reading encyclopedias, Melanie stuck out her tongue and went, ‘Blih-thih-thih-thih-thih-thih-thihhhhhhhhh,’ the perfect sound for a hideous, semi-human outcast. Then she gave the cutest little impish smile to all the kids who’d fallen out of their chairs and were thrashing around on the floor. I never sat in the library and read encyclopedias again, but that was stupid. Nobody congratulated me or asked to be my friend. It actually got a lot worse, because now they knew they could control me. They started going after my clothes, my hair, my weight, and especially my head, as if I’d made it oversized as some kind of lame fashion statement. ‘Hey, Tater! Why’s your head so big? From all that reading, huh? Hey, I’m talking to you, Pizza Face! Reading makes your head big and gives you zits, huh?’”

Prior to entering the seventh grade at Bishop Thomas K. Gorman Regional Catholic School, I attended Rice Elementary School for the fifth and sixth grades. There were fifth graders who’d failed five or six times, so they were sixteen years old. And they all zeroed in on me, like a pack of hyenas taking down a baby elephant.

On the school bus, kids wouldn’t let us sit down, or they’d trip us in the aisles. The sixteen-year-old fifth graders lived in tar-paper shacks in the middle of swamps. When we picked them up, they’d yank me out of my seat. During PE class, these kids took off their shoes and played barefoot, since one pair of shoes had to last them most of their lives. They did whatever they wanted to me because the coach—whose eyes were so far apart they were almost on his temples—was busy tickling and groping the fifth- and sixth-grade girls.

We were taught to never complain, but after a week of riding the bus, we told our parents that we wouldn’t leave the house anymore if we had to run that gauntlet twice a day. So Mom and a neighbor began driving us to school and picking us up.

Months of daily blitz attacks left me almost unable to function. I had nightmares and began to fail my classes. For some completely unknown reason, a gigantic kid named Thurman took pity on me and became my protector. He was even fatter than I was, but he was fearless and strong. When one of the sixteen-year-old fifth graders was robbing me of my lunch money, Thurman threw the kid off me and charged him, using his stomach to slam him against the brick wall. The kid’s head hit the bricks so hard that it bounced. It make a glorious doo-doont sound. The kid fell to the cement, crying. Crying!

Thurman never acknowledged being my bodyguard, and I was too humiliated to thank him. I ran into him three years later at Bishop Thomas K. Gorman Regional Catholic School, where he’d gone to meet friends, the school’s best football players. Though only thirteen, he was now about six three and had a huge afro.

“You know who I am, baby?” he asked, smiling.

“Thurman,” I said. Then his friends joined him, and he sauntered off. As they turned the corner, he looked back at me and waved.

You’re not helping

I’ve known two quadriplegics, two kids with cerebral palsy, and a girl with a massive port-wine stain on the left side of her face. All these people were tough, funny, and self-reliant. I met the girl with the port-wine stain—a birthmark—in college. She was always surrounded with boys. One night she and I did door duty at a party, taking peoples’ money and handing out the red plastic beer cups. After an hour with her, I was in love. She was unbelievably sexy, her humor, intelligence, and butch-but-feminine vibe intoxicating.

One of the kids with cerebral palsy showed me how he got into museums for free in Paris.

“I stick out my tongue and hold up my cane, and they comp me. They’ll comp you too. Watch.”

When we got to the museum, he stuck out his tongue, held up his cane, and went, “Bluhhhhhhhhhh!

The ticket seller gestured violently for us to go in. She waved us away, really, as though we were abominations, but it saved us the cost of the tickets and didn’t bother my companion.

Leah Katz-Hernandez and Megan Erasmus are doing children no favors by training them to be on the constant lookout for bullying that they can’t even perceive. Also, they’re putting kids under the complete control of others.

Degrading a person’s wholeness through making false assumptions about the other’s ability causes a sense of invalidation? Not if you teach your child that the opinions of others have nothing whatsoever to do with reality.

Since my parents demanded that we not complain about anything, it never occurred to me to seek help from them. Therefore I spent more than twelve years undergoing daily assaults. I was bullied even in college, but by that time I had marijuana to dull the pain. Terrific answer to bullying, isn’t it?

“Just smoke weed. You won’t care.”

Do you think the girl with the port-wine stain on her face felt a sense of invalidation, ever? Or do you think she had fantastic parents who taught her early on that some people are morons whose words are completely without value?

From Katz-Hernandez and Erasmus’s blog post.

In the majority of cases, micro-aggressive behavior tends to happen because people are not aware that their comments, tone, and behavior are insensitive and harmful. Thus, it’s critical for YOU to spread the awareness about micro-aggressive behavior. Greater awareness will help people identify and reduce the prevalence of micro-aggression in our nation’s schools, playing fields, and workplaces.

That’s bogus on every level. People who demean others are always aware of what they’re doing. Nothing will change their behavior. They’re write-offs. Spreading the word about “micro-aggressive behavior” will just make those people laugh at you and then switch from micro- to macro-aggression.

The solution is to help the target be strong, confident, and impervious to the words and actions of rectums masquerading as humans. I would’ve preferred microbullying over the shouted insults, violence, taunting, gaslighting, and harassment I faced all the way until 2002, when I quit being a music journalist.

Now I can handle bullying. And I have a good deed on my record that will help offset my many sins. A kid I once knew was bullied in high school. He asked me what to do.

“The next time the guy bullies you, say, ‘Thank you,'” I told him. “Say it sincerely, as though you really mean it and are really grateful.”

A few weeks later, the kid told me he’d done what I suggested, and it worked. He said thank you to the bully.

The bully paused, said, “Uh…you’re welcome,” and walked away with a very confused look. He not only never bullied the kid again, he thought the kid was pretty cool after that.

Illegitimi non carborundum.

1973


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