My absolute worst childhood memory is a ritual on the school bus in elementary school. Our first stops were through my rural neighborhood followed by a pickup at a trailer park before we reached the school. I remember sitting there, wide-eyed and silent, as a group of the rural kids carried out their daily tradition of yelling the derogatory 90s slang “scrubs” at the trailer park students as the bus stood at the stop sign where kids embarked. I don’t even recall them fighting back, they just took the insults and sat down. The faces of these screaming, laughing white boys from nice families stay with me. This was 20 years ago and wasn’t about race, religion, national origin, or sexual orientation. It was homeowners vs trailer park. It’s this memory that pops up whenever I hear about bullying in the news.
This month, I attended the opening reception for the “I’m Tired” project at the Center for Creative Education in Beacon. The photography exhibit is a platform for the voices of students at Rombout Middle School about bullying and the impact of our everyday assumptions. Each of the over 600 students were invited to share what they were “tired of” in an anonymous statement written on the palm of their hands. I found this simple opportunity for expression an effective outlet for sharing, while at the same time bringing us face to face with our own assumptions we may not even realize are hurtful.
Center for Creative Education: www.cce4me.org