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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 6/17/09

What would your son do if confronted by a bully? Fight or walk away?

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Message Douglas Wallace

The policies of school administrators in dealing with bullies at school unwittingly favors the middle class. Impoverished children suffer self-image issues and live in a culture of poverty that makes fighting a badge of dignity.

Children of the poor don't fight because they are bad, but rather because they perceive it as the only way they can earn respect and maintain their dignity among their classmates.

Fight or walk away?

That may sound like an easy choice-just walk away, right?

But consider this- poverty victims, particularly boys, don't always get to choose.

Often the only option for poverty victims is to fight and fight well, or get beaten up.

Even if they succeed in avoiding the fight, they are subjected to harassment and often lose dignity among their family members and the neighborhood peers. As part of the underclass during my childhood and adolescent years I know what it's like to be confronted by bullies.

On my first day at school three bullies chased me all the way home. Later they knocked on my front door demanding that I come out and fight. My mother told me to go out and fight them, one by one.

She said my fear attracted them to me, like bears to honey.- "You have to fight them," she said, "or they will never leave you alone."

The tone of my mother's voice clearly suggested that I'd lose all measures of respect if I didn't go out there and fight.. The lesson I learned from that experience was that there are many aggressive bullies in the slum neighborhoods, and they're not shy about coming after you-even if you're minding your own business.

I found this to be true in virtually every neighborhood we lived in, from my earliest memories all the way through high school.

I had no choice but to stand up to bullies or lose any semblance of dignity.With respect to violence, an inner struggle ensued almost at once having to do with fighting.

From the very first time on, every fight I had, no matter what the circumstances, filled me with remorse. Yet, each time I was confronted by bullies I fought them, over and over again, and each time I suffered the weight of remorse.

Fighting and remorse were synonymous for me, an inseparable pair. I never started a fight, but that fact didn't seem to ease the regret that accompanied any fight I took part in.

Plain and simple, fighting for me was a bad choice, but often-usually my only choice. I suppose I could have walked away and capitulated to their abuse, but my desire to be treated with respect was greater than my desire to be a pacifist.

The truth about bullies is that they will just keep after you. They won't leave you alone until you either stand up to them, or someone of authority finds a way to make them stop.

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Doug Wallace was born in 1949 in Big Rock, Tennessee. The third oldest of eight children, he was born into generational poverty with an alcoholic father and a battered mother. Doug and his siblings lived a transient lifestyle throughout their (more...)
 
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