This is Living Stories, featuring voices from the collections of the Baylor University Institute for Oral History. I'm Kim Patterson.
Bullies are people who try to harm or intimidate others who they perceive as weaker. It starts in childhood.
Maggie Langham Washington moved to Waco in the fifth grade and remembers how she was an easy target for bullies:
"If you were a minister's child that's new in a school, you saw hard time, a real hard time because kids would do things to you just because they felt like you weren't supposed to do anything back to them because you were a minister's—you were preacher's child, preacher's brat. And after a while that got a little old with me. I decided that I wanted to be a regular person."
Washington recalls a story involving a girl who others had told her was cruel:
"And we were playing pass ball, and I was a tomboy. I could jump, leap high, and get that ball. So she decided, let me guard her, and I heard her. I trembled in my boots. I kept letting her get the ball, and finally I decided this is just not going to work. So when I knew they were throwing the ball to her, I just stepped in front of her and jumped up and got it, and she hit me. When I realized what was happening, the lady that was supervising the game, Mrs. Bevis, one of the teachers, was tapping me on my shoulder saying, ‘Langham, Langham, that's enough.' So that called for a spanking. I knew that. So it was reported to my homeroom teacher; we were both in the same class. And my homeroom teacher carried me into the cloakroom and she says, ‘Every time I hit something, you holler.' (laughter) And I did. And then when it came time to get Henrietta, every time she hit she needed to holler. So nobody in my class ever knew I didn't get a spanking."
Interviewer: "Uh-huh. Yours was all dramatics."
Mary Darden of Waco describes an encounter with a bully in sixth grade in Connecticut that helped shape her passion for social justice:
"And he was beating the crud out of this kid. I mean, the kid was bleeding, and nobody—everybody was standing around, nobody doing anything about it. I went running in, and I pushed the kid out of the way he was beating up and I got in a fight with him. And I started fighting with him, and he—he hurt me. He—I mean, I had a black eye, I'm sure. And, I mean, my face showed it. I mean, you could tell for a week afterwards I'd been in a fight. But I stood there and fought him until the teacher came out and broke us up. And I realized at that point that I was not probably going to draw a line between my personal safety and, you know, that I would take a stand."
Bullying shows no signs of dissipating, especially with today's cyberculture that offers even more methods of terrorizing others. Although bullying is often dismissed as a normal part of growing up, it is harmful, and in some cases the effects last a lifetime.
Living Stories is heard every Tuesday on 103 point 3 FM, Waco's NPR. For program transcripts or more information about the Institute for Oral History, visit baylor.edu/livingstories.
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