You Can Not Spit in My Hair

When I was in junior high, two boys harassed me on the bus and spit in my hair.

I actually don’t remember what their names were, but the white, blond haired, blue eyed boys who were bullies.

We had moved that year from California
to a small town in rural Indiana.
I had to take the bus home every afternoon.
My younger brother Paul and I were one of the
few Asian kids in the entire school.
He participated in after school sports,
so he didn’t always ride the bus home.

I was used to the teasing on the bus.
I would block it out by reading a book,
or doing my homework.

The two bullies did their usual thing,
laughing and joking about me.
They made fun of the way I walked –
pigeon toed and with a limp.
I was born a preemie, with cerebral palsy.
They made fun of my name –
Kwon became King Kong.

It didn’t matter if I changed seats, the boys would follow me.
The bus driver, who witnessed it all, never did anything.

But on that day, we had dissected frogs in biology class.
And the teacher didn’t seem to notice
that any of the pieces were missing.

On that day, they threw the dissected frog pieces in my hair.
I ignored them, pulling each piece out of my hair
as if nothing happened.

And then, it happened.
They spit in my hair.

Thankfully the bus had reached my house.
My teeth were clenched.
I was holding my breath, trying not to cry or scream.
I picked up my books and jacket and methodically walked off the bus.

I opened the front door.
My mother was in the kitchen, making dinner.
I slammed the front door,
And let it out.
I screamed a blood curdling scream,
ran upstairs to my room,
and cried for the next 12 hours straight.

Eventually I told my mom and dad what happened.

The principal didn’t do anything except tell the bus driver and boys that they couldn’t sit behind me.

Soon after my parents got permission for my brother and I
to start school in another district in Indianapolis,
even though we hadn’t moved there yet.

Growing up, many of us are taught to ignore the bullies.
To not fight back and turn the other cheek.
Not speak up and walk away.

I don’t do that anymore.

I advocate, speak up, and I help others
find their voice, their strength and resilience
to stand up for themselves, set boundaries
and know when to walk away.

Bullies can exist in our lives and in organizations in different ways.
They can be ex-partners, parents, co-workers or bosses.

It isn’t always easy to navigate those relationships,
remain professional and stay true to yourself and values.

The first step is to make a decision.
To decide to do things differently.

Who were the bullies in your life?

And when did you finally decide to speak up and say,
“You can not and will not spit in my hair!”?!?