Dear PoPville – “What would you have done? Verbally Harassed by an Elementary School Aged Child!”

Photo by PoPville flickr user Vileinist

“Dear PoP,

I live in East Capitol Hill, by the Potomac Ave Metro. Twice daily for almost 2 years, I pass in front of the Friendship Public Charter School across from the Harris Teeter on my way to and from the metro. I actually have always enjoyed having the school there because let’s face it – kids are cute, and I it was always nostalgic to see these high-energy kids heading to school or hanging out front waiting for their parents to pick them up. It was a nice reminder that we all used to be that age, and had that level of boundless energy.

Well I had quite a different experience yesterday. As I was passing by the front of the school, there was a group of 5-6 African American kids, roughly around 10-12 years old, in the middle of the sidewalk. I had my headphones on, with the volume relatively low so that I was not oblivious to my surrounding and traffic, etc. As I approached this group of kids and was just at them, I said “excuse me”, so that they would move out of my way as they were taking up the whole sidewalk. A young girl was staring at me as I was passing, said “hi”, I said “hi” and smiled in return, and she sort of attempted to put her arm on my shoulder. I t was then that the kids burst out laughing, all of them speaking at once so I couldn’t really understand what each were saying, but it was clearly at my expense. I was puzzled and a few feet away already when one of the male kids shouted out “ha, you stupid white cracker!” (FWIW, I am a 30 something white female).

I was really jarred, and being a completely non-confrontational person, pretended I did not hear due to the earphones, and kept going. I was really disturbed by this though, and wondered as I walked home if I should have said something to the kid? Gone inside to get a teacher to reprimand them? Anything else? After I calmed down and stopped going through the what-ifs, all I ended up feeling was sad. How on earth could this child say something like that to another person? What made them think that was OK? I know kids say and do awful, hurtful things (didn’t we all?) that they regret when older, but this was just – ugly. The racial component is obviously what disturbs me the most, and I ask in advance that the commentariat not be d-bags in your responses to this. I want honest suggestions.

So I still wonder – Should I have told someone or confronted them? What would you have done?”

For me and I think many others there are probably three answers – what you would like to have done, what emotionally you wanted to do, and finally what you would do. And as some will surely note this is also a situation where you won’t necessarily know how you’ll react unless you experience it for real. So it’d be very interesting to hear if others have experienced this or a very similar situation – what did you do/how did you react?

Personally, I’d like to think I would have spoken to/found a teacher and explained the situation in hopes the teacher would not only reprimand the student but explain why it was wrong. Unfortunately when kids are in groups they behave differently (as do adults). If the child was not in a group I’d like to thing I would have spoken to him/her and explained directly that it hurt my feelings and explained why.

Emotionally, I would like to approach the kids and strongly/loudly say, “do we have a problem? You think it’s ok to insult people? You realize cracker is a very insulting word don’t you? Don’t you!”. I’m certainly not saying that is the smartest/most effective reaction but, to be honest, emotionally I think initially I would have felt that way.

In reality, I’m sad to say I think I would probably just shake my head and walk away without saying a word.

Anyone ever been in this situation for real? If not how do you think you would react? What do you think is the most appropriate/beneficial (to the kids) way to react? For those that have children – how would you explain to your kids that this is wrong? Do you think there is any hope in correcting this behavior in 10-12 year olds?

201 Comment

  • tell the principle

    • Principal*

      sorry I had to

      • RED PEN – grammar freak

      • What these kids need is a parent to give them a smack in the ass once in a while. You think just saying “what you said hurt my feelings” is going to turn them into angels? give me a break. You also think they give a shit about getting “reprimanded” by the teacher? Give me a break. You are quite out of touch my friend. The kids were probably on their way home from detention anyway.

    • This reminds me of the time a 10-year old was playing baseball in his yard (in Petworth), with his grandfather watching over him. When he saw me walking by (Asian male), he ran over with a baseball bat and asked me if I wanted to be hit with it. I ignored him, my wife yelled at him, and the grandfather sitting nearby seemed oblivious.

      Listen people. I understand the race dynamics here are sensitive, but give me a break — NOBODY should have to suffer from harassment when keeping to themselves (verbal, physical, or otherwise).

      Adams Morgan is a shitshow for women walking through it, maybe schools are apparently trouble for some white residents, and African Americans get trouble from all over. But hey, Asians get it from both white and black residents in DC.

      Point being, regardless of how routine this is or how effective any action will be, this kind of stuff is still jarring, even if it happens to you routinely. I think it is the unfortunate hipsters and cynics that think we need to just leave this be, because it will always be that way.

  • As a man, I’d wiggle my ass in an exaggerated and funny way and keep walking. No sense taking umbrage….make fun of them without confronting them. Either that, or give them the finger over your shoulder and don’t look back.

    • Wrong. Some kid calls you a “stupid white cracker”, and you don’t a) brush it off or b) reinforce the racial barrier with the finger.

      I would stop, remove the headphones, and ask them to repeat what they said. At the same time, I would be taking a picture of these little sh*ts with my cell phone, and then march up to the school to find the principal, making the kids fully aware that their acting out was unacceptable and they had messed with the wrong “cracker”. This behavior won’t stop until we see ourselves as members of a community that needs to push back against this kind of ugliness at every opportunity.

  • While I haven’t been in this exact situation, I have confronted a bunch of school age kids. While on the (relatively crowded) bus one day, a couple groups of kids (maybe 10-12 years old) started comparing their schools to one another, saying theirs was better, that kind of thing. They started horsing around and shoving each other playfully, and were ok until one of them shoved another into a bank of seats where a woman was sitting with her infant in a carrier, nearly landing on top of the baby. The woman looked absolutely terrified, and when the kids didn’t stop shoving I yelled at them – “hey! do you realize there’s a kid here you could have hurt? save it till you get off the bus!” The kids started swearing under their breath about me in Spanish, and I know enough to understand what they were calling me. I gave them my best teacher face and told them that not only was what they were saying inappropriate, the name calling was just uncreative. I asked if they wanted to repeat it for the rest of the bus to hear. They got off the bus at the next stop.

    I’m not sure this would be the principal’s biggest issue here. Just let them know that you’re friendly but you’re not going to take any of their nonsense. They’re only looking for someone to bully – if you act like it matters, they’ll only do it more.

  • Meh, they are just immature kids. On the other hand, I sense that this way of thinking is common among many older African Americans in the city. Sad but true. There are far too many stories of black youth (and I’m using that term loosely. I wouldn’t consider 19-21 yr olds youth, but whatever) harrassing white/hispanic/gay residents who are minding their own business. If I were you, I would ignore them but tell their principle. If they continue this heck, let the police know there are kids who are harassing people and causing problems.

    • Yeppers. The real racists in DC are all black. Not all the blacks are like this but if you hear a racial slur in DC, you can bet it is coming out of a black mouth. I’ve heard this type of language on the bus several times, sometimes directed at me.

      OK, now will all the racists please tell me how I’m the bad guy and the blacks are ALWAYS the victim and cannot possibly be racist.

      • What did I tell you about “yeppers”?

      • sadly i have to agree with this. i have been called cracker more times than i can remember in this city, mostly by terrible AA drivers who cut me off on my bike. when i challenge their driving they routinely call me a cracker — to which i routinely reply, “oh great — so you’re a shitty driver AND a racist!”

        funny story, tho — walking home from work recently a bunch of drunks dudes hanging out on a stoop looked at me laughing and one said, “corduroys…cracker!” at first i was insulted, but several days later i passed the same group and said, “look, no corduroys!” we all had a great laugh and now we star in a sitcom together. that last part is not true, but a little humor did help us talk to each other like human beings should…

      • Seriously? ALL the racists? That’s just idiotic.

        I’m not saying that black people don’t ever make inappropriate comments about other people that are racially motivated, or that these comments are justified by a history of discrimination. They’re not.

        But you ARE saying that no non-black people in DC ever make inappropriate racially motivated comments, which is just objectively false.

  • You were offended by being called a cracker?

    Where the hell did you grow up? It’s part of life. Look where you live. Keep walking and move on.

    • “It’s part of life” that children in this city are being taught to have a confrontational attitude toward people, simply because of their race?

      No wonder this city has so many problems.

    • Yeah, and if a black man was called the N word by some white kids while walking down the street, we would all ask him why he’s offended? Would we tell him it’s “part of life”

      Where did YOU grow up “Really”?

      Hate crimes are hate crimes – until this City realises this simple fact, there won’t be any racial progress!

    • These are KIDS. KIDS. Kids make fun of things. Black, white, brown, red–kids of all colors do stuff like this.

      Listen to louder and better music.

      • nope. you’re wrong. you teach kids, not ignore their bullshit.

        • -1 – Kids are not going to learn from a stranger that they have no affiliation with… I would keep moving. With any luck, if you confront them, they will call the cops on you and make up some story about how you were harassing them…For the most part, I agree with really?

          • i don’t agree. a bunch of kids were making fun of me and my young son one day, on the playground across from our house. i could tell what they were saying, but ignored them until they started singing “go on back to Fresh Fields…” cute (and pre-name change) song, but offensive. so i walked up to them, told them i wasn’t unhip to their song and let them know that i had been in my home far longer than they had been alive. i also explained that i was not happy to raise my son in a place where people speak that way to each other. and they (wait for it) sincerely apologized! i was even keeled and measured in my remarks, did not get rattled but was very direct and stern. i’m almost sure my comments did nothing to change their overall lifeviews, but it made me feel better that they “got it” when i objected to their ignorance.

      • What a foolish, short sighted response. Kids learn by being corrected by adults. You are too chicken-shit to stand up to them, so you pretend there’s nothing to do. Face that fact. Same thing to Anon 10:49am.

  • You really feel harassed because someone called you a cracker?

    Jeeeez. Grow up. That’s not harassment.

    You sound like a 6 year old wanting to go tell the teacher. Were you bullied as a kid?

    • you think its acceptable for a 10 year old to call a stranger a ” stupid white cracker”? the OP doesn’t have a problem, you do.

      • Here’s why you speak up to someone in authority at that school: Because if no one calls out these kids on their anti-social behavior at age 10 — that there are some things you just don’t do — by age 12 that name-calling will manifest itself in much more violent ways, and by age 15 it’s full-blown criminality, simply because no one is telling these kids what is right and what is wrong at an early age, and that there are consequences to anti-social behavior.

        Their parents — who most likely can barely take care of themselves properly — certainly aren’t, and the city certainly isn’t. Look at how juvenile criminals are coddled in this city.

    • +100

      I find it hard to believe a 30 something supposed adult is offended and spends so much time in hindsight thinking about what any 10-12 year old has to say.

      You live in a city with literally the worst schools in the nation, in the year 2011. If you want every child to refer to you as “sir” and “ma’am” and move aside for you as you walk by on the sidewalk, I suggest you move to 1957 suburbia and have a son named “the Beaver”.

      • +100 Thank you sir. You’d be surprised how often I am maligned for my nickname.

        • Well played, Beav

        • Shut your yap, cracker squirt! Well hellllloo Misus Cleaver!!

          But seriously, although kids often act this way, it’s not acceptable to verbally harrass anyone, especially with racially sensitive words. Should have told thme it was unacceptable on your way to the teachers/ principal with your complaint. Not sure it would have helped, but it was your the only reasonable response to the situation.

      • See my comments above – the only thing this has to do with 1957 – are the racial atitudes of the old south!

        It’s insulting for us to say that it’s wrong to be even a little bit racist if it’s white on black, but we make excuses when it’s black on white because you just can’t expect anything more from poor black people…

        • No, I am not making excuses for racism, I am making excuses for urban and undisciplined 10 year old kids being urban and undisciplined 10 year old kids. Really, in the nations worst schools, in a city that has dang near the highet unemployment rate east of the mississippi where we have a ~30% highschool drop out rate among the black demographic and 35% of the city being illiterate, what do you expect.

          If you moved here not knowing these things and expecting differently, then thats your fault.

          Why anyone would take anything that comes out of a 10 year olds mouth seriously is beyond me. Time for you to put on your big boy pants.

          As someone said before, walk away knowing that the high point of their lives will be getting one of those future Walmart jobs coming in a few years.

          • “urban” kids are the problem? Really? You’ve clearly never experienced the provincial prejudices of “rural” or “small-town” kids. They’re just as xenophobic and judgmental as “urban” kids. I know, I used to be one of them. I grew out of it, partly by traveling and realizing the wider world wasn’t that different from “back home.”

          • um, as someone who has worked with “these urban” kids, why do you have different standards for urban kids than others? they need to be held accountable for the behavior no matter the stats.

            you care what comes out of a 10 years old mouth, because you care about 10 year olds in your neighborhood.

            maybe it’s not kosher to be your brother’s keeper, but in my book, it sure as hell is. We live in a city and have a responsibility to be a community. And that means being a part of the village that raises a child.

            Otherwise we are just propagating all those gaps between class and race and what have you socioeconomic categories… the more we cross those boundaries, the better neighbor we will be and the better neighborhoods we will have…

            and yah, it’s tough and messy, but I think it is worth it, if we believe in justice and equality.

      • most of the kids call me sir. or Mr Anon in my neighborhood here in dc. when it becomes common place and not shocking for kids to call a woman by herself stupid cracka things are very bad off. it should be bothersome that children act this way. you are misled if you think otherwise.

        • @S,

          Back in the day before American’s became a pathetic version of their former selves where every misbehaving child is suffering from some “psychological issue” that requires medication, kids like this were dealt with one way, and it wasn’t being sent to your room for a “time out” to think about what you’ve done.

          You acted that way towards an adult, any adult, you got slapped or spanked and it usually didn’t happen again.

          Now, parents are turned into child services for yelling at their kids or spanking them on the bottom in public.

          I grew up in the 60’s, teachers/school administrators frequently slapped kids who act like this. Now no one does because they go to jail.

          The result is pretty clear. Kids have no fear of consequence, no fear of punishment.

          The “right” thing to have done to these kids was to turn around, slap the offender across the face for speaking to an adult in that way and send him home, but we all know that would have landed the girl in jail.

          And lets be honest, in this town there is a larger than average chance the 12 year old would have simply pulled a gun.

          That kid and that demographic is already lost. You can’t change a 12 year old who has been raised like that. You can wax poetic about “childrens future being bright”, and all that crap, but they are already irreversably damaged.

          Save your heartache for the next round, who might possibly still be salvaged.

          • That’s what their parents do, @joker. That’s why they don’t fear punishment or consequences, because when they are beat up on a daily basis, they don’t have respect for adults who do what they want and don’t care about them- they’ve already seen the worst humanity can throw at them, what’s once more person to pile of sh** done to them.

            At 10-12, they are still salvageable. Once you get into high school, that’s when it’s a bit too late. Though, honestly, it’s never too late to have a positive impact on someone’s life.

            Treating children with dignity and respect does make a difference. That’s why I love working with them and even though it’s a hard, rough job, I enjoy every minute I’m with the kids (now, admin, that’s another story).

    • @Really? you are so unbelievably out of touch with reality.

      • 1964– You were offended because Woolworth’s won’t let you eat at their lunch counter because you are black? You live in this country and think things should be otherwise? Really?

  • As a teacher at a school where I can very easily see this happening, I’d say you did the right thing walking off. The behavior was meant to grab the attention of the other students. It was showing off and you shouldn’t take it personally. That said, I’m sure the administration would make time to discuss the matter and they may post an addition teacher outside for a while to avoid this behavior. However, if you’re really shaken by this, you should consider asking the administrator about volunteer opportunities. Make a real change in one of these children’s lives and they may be less inclined to make ignorant statements in the future.

    • so as a teacher, if you saw a bunch of white kids call a black woman the n-word, you wouldn’t want any action taken? I think teachers, parents, and the ENTIRE community need to step in to nip racist attitudes in the bud. for the good of these particular children, they have no chance of excelling in this world if they hate white people. the attitude comes from their parents and community and will be difficult to change, but I say that letting this sort of thing slide is irresponsible.

      • It’s completely different for a teacher to take action, than a stranger the kids don’t even know. In fact, the students probably wouldn’t have said that in front of a teacher knowing he/she would reprimand them for it. I agree with Teach. The kids were trying to show off in front of their friends and thought they would look cool by harassing a white passer-by. Would they have done it to a black stranger? Doubt it. That’s because they feel a distance whites in general. They probably don’t have many (or any) white friends/mentors/family etc. The only way to fix that is by trying to become involved in these kids’ lives. (not these exact kids per say, but in general) If the kids had a white adult that they respected and looked up to, they would think twice before insulting a white stranger on the street.

        I’m definitely not saying it was “okay” for them to say that, but the deeper root of the problem is that it’s ingrained in their minds that is is okay, and the only way to stop it is to make a change in their actual mindset.

    • As a parent of kids in a charter school (where I hope something like this would NEVER happen), I would request that you go inside and tell an administrator. If the charter school administration is any good (and some of them are not) the kids will be spoken to. And, they are elementary aged kids, so they do still care what their principal or teachers think. And, with any luck, their principal is a strong black man who they look up to, and when he tells them how disappointed he is they’ll get the message.

  • “Really?” is missing the point. When 10-12 year olds think that it is fine to block the sidewalk and ridicule passersby based upon race, then there is a profound disrespect for adults that will likely only increase in time. It is bad enough for these kids to bully other kids, but when they start harassing adults it does not bode well for their futures (or for society’s).

  • Teach is right – this was not meant for you. They do these things to get a rise out of one another. It’s not really a race thing and I’ve seen just as many white and hispanic kids do the same thing. they just use race because they know you won’t say anything. If you were an older African American person, they would likely say something different to them that their friends would find funny. If the kids were white and you were white (as an example), they would still do something their peer group found amusing and a little taunting. the difference is, they might be more discreet about it.

    • people also steal and beat the s*** out of others to “get a rise” out of one another. this is a “gateway activity”. responsible members of the community should demand more from our children.

  • in what way is dc like the emerald city?

    • Dorothy has lots of friends here. One of our council members has no brain. Another, no heart. Another, no courage. And the Wizard is less than what we believed he’d be.

      Also, the Emerald City doesn’t have parliamentary representation in Oz’s House of Wizards.

  • There isn’t any blanket suggestion. You have to read the dynamics at hand. 1) This is a bullying situation. 2) These are kids.

    Please remember you are the adult. I recommend being a fellow adult in the world of the child — and not dumping this on the teacher. These children were out of school, yes? The teacher has been dealing with this all day, all year. I think you should try handling this, and you would be demonstrating solidarity with the school staff.

    (By the way, we all have bullying situations — even white people — like at work — can be very passive aggressive cold bullies — even blog commentators can act like bullies — even gay Samoan midget real estate agents — so let us move on from “race”.)

    First, of all they were playing with you as you might have looked a little scared as a “non-confrontational white female” knowingly approaching a group on the sidewalk, and kids this age (of any race) will eat you alive if you (male or female) look scared. Second, your headphones are on, but you can hear, because you say, hi, so now they’re playing, “Can she hear me?” Third they are a group and bullying so there is a leader and bystanders and or competition for leadership or to impress. (bystanders suck.)

    If it were me, I would say “hello” first to two or three, smile honestly, and walk with a sense of purpose. Or I just would try not to give a damn, and then really not give a damn at all. (For me the first is easier than the second.) If I saw them again, I would definitely try to say “hello” to the girl who said “hi” first. I would try to make friendly social connections with at least one or two bystanders to break the lead bully’s power. If I ever had the guts to say something, I would ask a question.

    If I were to get really silly I would kill them with kindness or ask if they finished their homework already or if they wanted to listen to my ipod.

    May the force be with you.

    • “do they want to listen to my ipod”? Hehehe…you aren’t from DC are you?

      Rest assured that would be the last time you saw it.

      • Or I’ve been here too long, you must have missed my post just the other day wherein I was discussing the trash in DuPont during the Crack Era of Marion Barry.

        • The fact that both of you exist simultaneously in DC supports the Emerald City hypothesis. What a fantastical variety of creatures.

  • I’ve had a similar experience. While walking down Columbia Road near 14th, a little girl between 8 and 10 years old was riding her bike down the sidewalk. I was moving to one side to get out of the way when she called out “Get out of the way white bitch.” As she whizzed past me, I didn’t say anything. I just looked after her in surprise. I’ve thought of it since then, but haven’t figured out how I could have responded in a productive manner.

    • After I got over the shock of this story I started to laugh. I seriously think a hearty loud laugh from the gut would be appropriate here.

      Too bad it’s hard to think on the spot.

      That is so obnoxious though!

      One question that sometimes works is, “Does your mother know that you…?” “Did your parents teach you to speak that way…?” (Sadly, the homes are not always good places.)

    • I would have kicked the wheel of her bike and watched her go flying. Watch this “white bitch” step over you.

    • I was in a similar situation at that very same spot. There was a group of kids (8-10 years old) playing by the street. As my friend and I passed by they said something rude about us. I don’t remember the exact words they used but it was clearly meant to hurt.

      I just ignored them. I don’t think anything a random person on the street says to a kid makes a lasting difference. As teach said, if you are really disturbed by this start volunteering and try to make a difference one kid at a time.

      Saying something to the parents or about their parents most likely will not help either. Where do you think they learn this language?

    • i’m sorry, but that’s hilarious

    • Whenever anything like this happens to me in this city I just remember that these obnoxious kids have sh*tty lives, sh*tty parents (or more likely, just one parent), and ZERO future ahead of them…Whereas I am a college-educated professional with a good job, I own my own home, and i have a happy and stable family. That puts things in perspective and I dont care WHAT they say. It is wrong for these kids to act this way, but they probably learned that behavior from their parent, and nothing a stranger says will change them.

  • Like Bloom’s response, every situation is different and we all have our own levela of comfort in confronting or walking away.

    They might be expecting me to ignore them or come back fighting so I’d look to disarm them [er, proverbially, not literally] and engage them.

    Walking back and looking at one of the kids “You called me cracker but my name is Milly. What’s your name?” “Who here knows when Harris Teeter opened/where to catch the x bus/who’s going to be in the NCAA final four”

    Giving them positive attention rather than negative attention – that’s my recommendation.

  • A black man is walking down the street. Tries to pass a group of white kids. They block his path and the further try to intimidate him by physically invading his personal space. As he walks past him they burst out laughing and one yells “ha, you stupid N-word”

    Is that acceptable? I think not — why is it acceptable because this woman was white?

    • That was my thought, too, after reading the comments above. There’s a massive double-standard in this city. It’s ok for me (or the OP, or any of the rest of you who are white) to be harassed on the basis of race, but it’s completely unacceptable for any of us to do the reverse. And I do not for one second believe that the history of race relations in this country, or this city, makes the double-standard acceptable. Racism is racism no matter which way it goes.

      • After reading through 123 comments, dreas and xyz by far have nailed my thoughts right on the head. Racism is racism, no matter what race is affected.

      • Racism without any power imbalance behind it is pretty meaningless. In general, blacks in America have less power (political, financial, etc.) than whites, and in this particular case, 10-year-olds have even less power over an adult.

        If some kid called me a cracker, I don’t think it would have anywhere near the same impact as calling someone who’s actually part of a demographic minority a racially charged name. And I’d ignore it.

        • Meaningless is wrong. If you look at the comments here, you see many people pointing to the harm it causes the kids — no child with that kind of deeply set bad attitude is going to be able to succeed in life. Racism is their ticket to menial jobs at best. It’s a very meaningful or telling act.

          So for the kids’ sake, it’s a good idea to fight the racist or grossly inappropriate comments. Some effort has to be made to re-shape their proto-world view, before it becomes ingrained.

          It should hurt you when some kid calls you a cracker because of what it implies about the city we live in. Not that you’ll shed a tear, but you’ll think about how fucked up this city is in some ways — how far we have to go to fix it.

          • Well, I don’t think having some stranger chastise them is going to change the situation. And you seem to be implying the kids’ attitude toward white people — as opposed to the attitude the country and city has already displayed toward the kids — is what’s going to hold them back.

            Bottom line: I don’t care if people call me names for being white, just like I don’t care if someone calls me names for being male, or straight. The flip side of the power that automatically accrues to someone who’s a straight, white male in this country is you don’t get to complain if someone calls you out for it.

          • You’re wrong that a stranger can’t make any difference. If they call 10 white people crackers, and none of the whites do anything, then they’ll call the next 10 white people crackers. If the first person they try that shit on calls them on it, it’ll probably stop there. The fatalistic “nothing is likely to make a difference” attitude isn’t helpful to anyone except hermits and anti-social people.

            Yes, racist or bigoted attitudes do hold one back — particularly if one isn’t white. That’s reality. Moreover, we can also extrapolate that the kid in question has a problem with authority and respect for his/her fellow human beings that is a detrimental to developing full fledged social intelligence. That overarching problem is going to haunt them their whole life. It’s going to limit their earning power.

            We do get to complain as straight white males when someone acts like an out and out racist. It’s part of our obligation as citizens (regardless of orientation or race) to maintain a respectful society. We speak up for justice. While racial outbursts are maybe more understandable among the black population, that in no way makes them good or excusable — which is your implication.

    • I’m sure Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton would be here in no time if that happened.

  • just last week i was walking through my neighborhood, talking to my dad on the phone. three ~10-year olds are walking towards me with their backpacks on, spread out over the whole sidewalk. one of those fenced in tree planter-thingys has blocked me from stepping into the street, but i wasn’t thinking that was a problem per se, as one of them is surely gonna yield some space for me to pass.

    i was wrong.

    the chick on the end shoulder checked me, and i practically yelled into my poor dad’s ear, “hello?!” (directed at the shoulder-checker) she turned around and yelled, “bitch!”

    so…what did i do? well call me numbed to children’s ever-decreasing innocence or maybe just to this city in general, but i burst out laughing and kept walking. my dad asked, “did someone just call you a bitch?!” and i could hardly stop laughing to tell him i got shoulder-checked AND called a bitch by an unruly 10-year old.

    so i guess my advice is to let it roll off your back. this is not a small town scenario where you know everyone and their parents. this is not your child, nor are you their teacher or principal. i’m not saying that it wouldn’t be nice to have kids still “mind their manners” by “respecting their elders,” but hey! it’s 2011 in washington, DC…wake up.

    maybe if you do indeed consider this “harassment,” you should go find one of those small towns and live there.

    if moving is unappealing to you, i suggest at a bare minimum that you change up your route home…the “nostalgia” has probably worn off by now, hasn’t it?

    • Even I think that’s a bit fatalistic.

      You’re misidentifying the problem. We have some responsibility as adults to act as good role models and stewards of young people, inasmuch as we come into contact with them. The problem isn’t “how can I mentally deal with this”. As the mature ones, we can elect to put aside the “I” or “me” factor, and contemplate how to help better our society via well raised children.

      Not that you can turn this kids’ life around, but you can say something that could shape their beliefs. You might be the only white person they talk to all month, besides their teachers. Your interaction could be potent.

  • then I congrat you “big gurl pants” for being part of the problem!

    When I encountered a group of girls that were harassing me and calling me fag next to the U street metro. The first thing I did the next day was march into the middle school and report it to the principal. The principal knew exactly who I was talking about and we went to her class and had her pulled to be reprimanded. She wasn’t laughing anymore.

    Maybe you should move! I will not be disrespected in my own neighborhood.

    • That is a good thing you and the principal did.

      I read sometime that teachers and principals make hundreds of decisions a day in regards to all the children they work with, so I don’t think they have time to deal with every interaction — like those off school grounds — the interactions in school take long enough.

  • All u people should get a life & stop being so sensitive. Whos got time to go runnin into kids schools & narcing?

  • Good thread.

    I contacted the principal of Wilson High School about kids on the red line; the principal didn’t care about rude behavior and most likely had little influence over the students’ behavior.

  • This happens to me on an almost weekly basis, except I’m an Asian male and the taunters are more often adults, usually white, sometimes black. Just ignore them…confrontation only encourages them and won’t result in them changing their behavior.

    Also, remember, these kids are going to have it much harder than you down the road than you. It’s tough being a minority in this country and dealing with the subtle slights and daily bullshit. Count yourself lucky that you only had to experience this once.

    • I disagree. adults may want a fight, but with children I think if you humiliate or scare them enough they won’t keep doing this. If enough adults either alert the principal or give it right back to the children in a firm/responsible manner, embarrassing them in front of their friends, then this behavior will stop.

    • Adult white males are harrassing you because U R Asian? Where do you live and can you provide examples of when this ocrussed?

      • I wouldn’t have believed it myself until I saw it. a few months back I was in dupont circle with 2 asian friends and as we were crossing the street, this white, middle-class douchebag started making “chinese” sounds. it was all I could do to run back out into traffic and give everyone a show of a white girl beating up a rather large white guy in the middle of the street.

        • sometimes my wife yells “YEEE-HAWWWWW” when she sees a white dude in a cowboy hat. who am i kidding, its just about everytime.
          its kinda the same thing, but it always make me cringe ( read: laugh my ass off)

      • I live in Dupont Circle. Usually it happens in Adams Morgon, U Street, or 14th Street. The offenders are usually drunk, but, trust me, I’m pretty sure these people think the same thoughts while sober.

        Putting people down through racist remarks is an easy way to boost one’s ego and be “funny” without having to be truly witty. I don’t see things changing anytime soon.

        Contrary to reports, we don’t live in a post-racial world.

        • I am also an Asian male, and I too am fed up about the subtle indignities and racial harassment (from both white, black and other perps) — but unlike other Asian dude here, I don’t endorse just ignoring it. And I also don’t believe that just because many of us face harassment (or that we live in a gentrifying part of the city) we should accept harassment as a way of life — even from 10 year olds. So many people commenting here seem to think this. Wtf?

          Is this what life has come to living in DC?

          If so, I’ll leave Petworth real quick, but not because of the kids harassing people, but because of the seeming black-white unity among ADULTS that we should accept harassment from children or others.

          I am hoping that this is just some hipsters ranting on a blog and not actual neighbors of mine who don’t feel invested enough in the neighborhood to care that the children are harassing and physically assaulting our other neighbors?

          Really people? Shame on you. You can protest Walmart coming to DC all you want and still boycott the Target, but more likely than not, your existence in Petworth is itself part of the gentrification — the only difference being, you don’t care about the children or neighbors among us.

          I think some of YOU should move to a different neighborhood. Not me.

  • why would you go back in the school and talk to the principal?

    as a teacher in dcps, i know personally that my principal would listen to you and then roll her eyes and go on her own merry way.
    you would be in shock at some of the behaviors we see on a daily basis.

    you are lucky they didn’t try to take your ipod.

    i would just turn around and say thank you, smile, and blow them a kiss!

    • “as a teacher in dcps, i know personally that my principal would listen to you and then roll her eyes and go on her own merry way.”

      Sounds like the principal sucks at being a principal – no wonder our school system is the worst in the country.

      • true petvet…!! you would not want to work here for sure. that is why i am leaving this school system at the end of the year. very sad place and very mismanaged

      • i get the sense that it’s about triage. that principal sees that as nearly insignificant in comparison to the other behavior and performance problems he/she is trying to manage.

        that said, in middle school (which is a little young for these kids), it seems to be the norm that there is a dean/vice principal whose primary role is discipline/asskicking. that’s the person to talk to in such a situation – our sadly underfunded schools probably can’t afford it, unfortunately.

        • u obviously haven’t seen our dean…not really asskicking at all.

          we have kids who bring knives to our elementary school and they do not get suspended. how’s that for discipline?

      • And this is why Michelle Rhee had such a following in this city.

  • op, i’m sorry this happened to you. it’s bad for you and a bad sign for their development as good citizens. i, for one, am glad how upset you are because that means you haven’t given up on the kids of dc. whatever action you may want to take, whether to contact the principal since it happened outside the school, will reflect tgat faith you want to have in their futures. lowering expectations for academic achievement or social behavior does them no favors. stay mad and expect better.

  • I probably would have laughed – I mean who really uses the word cracker?
    But the right thing to do would be to tell the kids that they are being rude, ask if their mothers know they talk like that. Don’t engage in name calling. If you are really peeved head into the school and report the problem.

    As Hillary said – it takes a village. And if you are not willing to do your part then don’t bitch when the village is overrun with bratty kids.

  • “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.”

    It’s really a no win situation. If you tell a teacher or whatever they’re just going to hate the “cracker” more. I think you did the best thing just brush your shoulders off and keep going.

  • Can’t you just be smug in the knowledge that in a few years you can complain about the poor service they are providing you at Chipotle?

  • Ah, the sweet innocence of youth…From what I remember of 5th and 6th grade, kids said the most horrible and dehumanizing things to each other pretty much all day. But I did grow up in Jersey.

    Develop a “you cannot be fucking serious” expression, practice it in the mirror, and toughen up.

  • Does anyone read mimi smartypants’ blog? She lives in Chicago and recently had a run-in with some kids on the El. They were bumping into people, moving between cars, etc. She told them to cut it out. When one of them asked her “why should I,” she replied that if they continued moving between the cars, one of the kids was likely to fall and get run over by the train. This would cause a huge delay for her and make her late for work, which, she said, would be seriously f$#king annoying. The kids were taken aback and stopped their horsing around. A little honesty goes a long way.

  • I live in Shaw and was walking home from work one day. Three kids, about 10-12 years old, were standing on the corner with a little boy, probably 3 years old. One of the girls leaned over to the little boy and whispered something to him. As I approached, he stuck his little middle finger up and said, “Fuck you, bitch” to me. I smiled at the girl and as I passed, leaned over to the little boy and said, “You know, that’s not a very nice thing to say” and kept walking. The older kids all laughed hysterically. I was a little shaken but mostly disgusted and sad.

  • I had a similar experience a couple of weeks ago. I live in the Hill East area, often use the Potomac Ave metro stop, and am also a white woman approaching 30. One evening on my way home from work, on the escalator leaving the station, a group of three or four 12 – 14-year old African American children were behind me. They were commenting, very loudly, that white people are taking over Potomac Ave, and that soon they will have to move to Brookland, or “back to Africa” because the white people don’t want them there. I don’t know what came over me; this would not be a typical response for me (or at least I wouldn’t say it out loud). But I immediately turned around, and told them that that was a very stupid thing to say. I told them as a white person living near Potomac Ave I don’t care what color my neighbors are and don’t have any desire for anyone to leave our neighborhood. Immediately the middle-aged African American woman standing behind the children (I do not believe she was with them) chimed in that she agreed with me, and told the children that perhaps its not the white people who are the racists in our neighborhood. I’m not implying that I agree that any one group of people in my neighborhood are racist, but it was nice to have a general agreement from the adults around me. After the incident I felt good that I at least attempted to correct the inaccurate perception these kids have, though when I told my husband he thought that in the future I should be a bit more careful about who I randomly turn around and yell at.

  • This site has become overcrowded with self-important dog psychologists and thin-skinned whiners.

  • Love this Emerald City comment gonna copy and paste to my Facebook
    Thanks it brightens this cold gloomy day

  • Nuke the site from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure…

  • Kids will be kids, they’re just lashing out against gentrification. If you don’t like it move back to Iowa!!!

    • the whole “move if you don’t like it” thing is for idiots.

    • This is hipster ignorance. Gentrification does not justify harassment, idiot.

      You’ll probably be moving to H St next, then whatever other “real” neighborhood emerges.

      They are building a Busboys and Poets in Hyattsville, I suggest everyone who shares your thought move out there. You can take the kids with you and have the time of your lives

  • I don’t understand why cracker is meant to be an insult. I like crackers, they are a delicious crispy buttery treat.

  • Or the site is full of hateful, desensitized, demoralized people who would rather just ignore the problems around them than take a simple action to try to improve things. This isn’t about an individual’s feelings being hurt by a bunch of kids; I think we can all agree that name calling isn’t really the problem here. Those of us who are actually from DC (not Iowa, thanks) have lived with this our entire lives and know the turmoil that racial tension has caused throughout this city’s history. Its the people who speak up against it that will change this city for the better.

  • the comments shock me…

    this is not about your feelings being hurt
    this is about the children not knowing to respect others
    this is about the children not acting like bigots

    telling the principal may be the best bet
    giving the finger or matching their wit… would only justify their attacks

    a few weeks back I had an incident with some high school age Caucasian kids in a car
    they harassed me on my bicycle
    I called the Dean of Students at Gonzaga knowing from their uniform, the sticker on their car, and the location of the incident that they were Gonzaga students

    the Dean did not give me a call back
    I tried to do my part
    in fact… I followed up and called back two additional times

    I just had to accept that Gonzaga is competing to keep up with Landon
    and that these institutions of over privileged kids are continuing to product the assholes of tomorrow

    as for these kids
    words today… actions tomorrow?

    it is unacceptable behavior
    they need to learn better behavior

    • i’m sorry that happened. i have a friend that went to gonzaga. he ultimately had to leave because of the racist attitude of his teachers and other students. this was a ways back, but i wouldn’t put much faith in that place.

    • I knew plenty of people that went to Gonzaga (when I was in public high school 8 years ago) both white and black and never noticed a racism problem. In fact my dad teaches there and he has never mentioned any race issues either. He’s also talked about several times where kids that acted up were rightfully punished. Sure, there are probably some racial divisions as there are at most schools, but I think you just don’t realize that some kids yelling at you as their car passes by is just not that big of a deal compared to everything else the Dean has on their plate. How would he know who did it? High schoolers do dumb stuff. It sucks to be harassed but you just have to let it go.

  • White whine

  • No one seems to have brought up the case of the young woman (late 20s, early 30s) whose jaw was broken by some kids as she was walking on Pennsylvania, away from the HT. 10-12 year-old kids are starting to test the limits society imposes upon them, and possibly starting to develop criminal tendencies. This is serious and it needs to be brought up to the attention of the police.

    Maybe the comments from the people who think we concerned citizens are a bunch of lily-white whiners have never been surrounded by a mob of angry, abusive children.

  • i believe the children are the future.

  • When I was that age my cousin and I once, while sitting in my mother’s car waiting for her to get back, mercilessly made fun of a small woman standing at a bus stop next to us. We were very cruel and thought it was funny. When my mother came up, the woman calmly told her how mean we had just been. My cousin and I felt terrible and my mother appropriately said some things that added to the shame.

    I never forgot the experience and, looking back, it’s hard to believe how I could have been so thoughtless. But kids are like that. They need direction.

    In this situation I guess the best thing to do would have been to talk to someone at the school. That’s a lot to ask of someone but it could be a meaningful lesson for some kid the way it was for me.

  • What the hell’s wrong with the OP that she can’t beat up a bunch of 10 year olds?

  • You should have either turned around got in their face and said “What did you just call me?” “You want a piece of me?” “Let’s go, right now!”

    or better yet said: “nana nana boo boo, you can’t catch me, and took off running.”

  • A friend of mine (a male in his 20s) got beat up by a bunch of girls who had just gotten out of middle school here in D.C. They threw a glass bottle at his head, causing massive bleeding and a trip to the hospital. We, of course, continue to make fun of him for being beaten up by a bunch of girls. But it really is a serious, serious situation, and you’re right: name calling at strangers can become violence at strangers if unchecked.

    Honestly, I don’t think there’s anything you can do, even though there should be. The kids probably don’t have parents who ever taught them any better. And it’s probably too late to change their behavior — Lord knows you chastising them won’t fix it.

    Just know in you’re mind that you’re probably ten times wealthier than they’ll ever be, and move on with it.

    • i take no confort in the fact that i may have a more comfortable life than these children. our streets should be safe. our children should not sling racial slurs.

  • These kids are acting out and testing the limits. If no one establishes that they expect better from these kids now and provides a little discipline, they will only continue to act out.

    I had a similar situation when walking home from a friend’s house on Holmead around 12 AM. A group of 11-12 year old boys and girls were sitting on a stoop, and I gave the old, neighborly “Hi, how you doin?” as I walked by. I then heard quick footsteps behind me before receiving a hard shove from two 11 year old girls. Shocked, I turned around and yelled, “Don’t do that!! You don’t do that to people!!” Their eyes went wide with surprise, and they didn’t move. “You don’t do that to people, and you shouldn’t be out this late! Where are your parents??” They remained in stunned silence and then ran away.

    Was this a dumb move for a skinny, white girl walking down an empty street at night? Probably, but my reaction was entirely instinctual. I was just so horrified that little kids were allowed to hang out with no supervision that late at night that I felt like someone had to show them some discipline. Kids that young are learning what society expects of them, and those facing tough upbringings are obviously angry about the limitations and obstacles they face. It’s to all of our benefit to have faith in them and show them we expect better.

  • “If a black person gets called the N word, would you say something?”

    As a black person who has been called the N word throughout my entire life, the answer is no, you don’t say anything. As a female who gets called the B word often (it’s always the easiest and cheapest insult), the answer is no, you don’t flip out. You learn as a child that violence is not the answer and that the people calling you the N word/B word in passing are just trying to get a rise out of you and belittle you. Keep it moving. And yes, ask educated black adults (there are lots of us in the city, thank you) and educated female adults what they would do and the majority would say something similar.

    The OP did the right thing.

    The double standard, in this case, is that a non-minority group is called a racial slur and people are up in arms. It happens. You can either rise above it or not.

    • +1 except for the violence thing. I think violence solves a lot of problems. WWII, WWI, and some dude running his mouth and needs to be taught a lession

    • I hear Black kids saying that word to each other almost every day (usually on the Metro.) Does that offend you? Do you ever confront them when you hear it?

  • “You called me a cracker? really? Way to take me back to the time of owning land and people!”

  • I’m in no way defending the little sh**s who harassed the OP, but I don’t think the double standard concept is applicable here. I agree with everyone who said that the highlight of these kids’ lives will be scoring a minimum-wage/Union transit job. The idea of the white gentry (and who are we kidding, there is no white working class in DC) harassing black children would be, on principle, a much bigger transgression in my eyes. It would be like pouring salt into the wound of a person who never had many opportunities in life to begin with. /bleedingheart.

    • That’s not being a bleeding heart, it’s being an idiot. The “white gentry” isn’t “harassing black children” – they’re harassing her. Basically, you’re defending them acting like jerks but it’s okay, because they’re only ever going to get minimum wage/union transit jobs. Way to put them in “their place” instead of trying to improve the situation.

    • i’m white and working class and i’ve been here for 15 years.
      i work with other white dc resident manual laborers that work their asses of in this city. i know lots more. you don’t know us? maybe you just think we’re ironic hipsters because we go out and drink in the clothes we work in. but don’t pretend we don’t exist asshole. get out more and get to know your city.

      and yes, any adults messing with kids is far worse than kids messing with adults. but heres the standard moron: don’t mess with people. theres no double standard. it’s simple and easy.

  • Surprisingly, the question does work on a few kids, but not all.

    You are right that truly most of this bad attitude and racism does come from the parents though.

    The only way the kids become aware of their racist backgrounds however, is if you question it and say something.

    You don’t have to mean about it. In fact, don’t be mean about it. Be the bigger person. And, also you won’t see the results immediately. It will take dozens of people and the kid won’t realize what a little pistol they were until much later, probably, if then.

    Such things take time. A long time.

  • “Does your Mom know you say things like that?”

    HAHAHA! Really? That’s a suggested course of action? Where do you think these little bastards learned to call a woman a stupid cracker? Unless that’s taught in the second grade class now or something. I don’t know.

    Maybe the next time it happens do this. Walk up to the kid and remind him that as evidenced by his ignorance and being a black male in DC that he’s most likely going to be dead or in prison by the time he’s 25. And on the off chance he avoids these two fates, his lack of education will never afford him a job making more than 12 dollars an hour. Then remind him that inevitable hammer of progress will come down upon his gaggle of poor people with cruel, unfeeling finality, driving them out via higher property taxes and rents. Then say, “Good day, sir.”

    That’s what I would have done. Or just ignored it and not sent a email to PoP.

    PoP, I took out the cussing so as not to offend the sensitive eyes of your readers. No need for the censorship now.

    • Wow, of all of the ignorant garbage ive read on this blog, you sir have taken the cake…i, for one, hope that you find yourself in that situation so that you can remind that the kid where he stands in society…im sure that will definitely sway him from ever insulting an upstanding (superior) white person, such as yourself again. And Im sure it will prevent him from splattering your pea sized brain to ooze out onto the sidewalk.

      • “Or just ignored it and not sent a email to PoP.”

        What do you think my real suggestion is, ocho? Think real hard before you answer.

  • in 3 years they’ll be throwing bricks at people’s heads

  • I think kids (and adults) in general need to learn what respect really means, and how you earn it. But it seems that what happened in the OP should be taken with a grain of salt. If it becomes habit, then yeah, maybe there’s an issue.

    Thinking back to even high school, my best friend and I were complete assholes. I remember one instance of driving down the street and throwing handfuls of change at someone walking by on the sidewalk. We were acting out, for whatever lame reason, but it was all about US not the unfortunate and RANDOM victim.

    Most of this city are totally dysfunctional, but you have to choose your battles carefully.

  • First, being called a cracker by a ten-year-old is not harassment. Second, when it’s kids, all you do is give them a little zinger back and carry on.

  • I always – always – immediately talk to the kids in a situation like this. Stop – turn around, look them in the eye. Civily, politely, calmly say “excuse me?”

    Then – What did you say? Why would you say a thing like that? Do you realize you are disrespecting yourself and your family when you behave like this? What would you think about a person that said something rude to your mother on the street?

    It is basically a good old-fashioned scolding. You clearly point out the wrong behavior and let the kids know it is not acceptable and that better is expected of them. It is your duty as an adult.

    Ignoring bad behavior tells a child that they are not worth the effort.

  • This is a problem destroying black America but at least Robin Harris made it funny.

  • If this is a good charter school the principal would most certainly want to know – I’ve worked with the Ceaser Chavez schools and they have a very strict behavior code because they believe the discipline an personal responsinility will show up in the children’s improved grades. I think it is REALLY sad that a principal in DCPS would roll his/her eyes about this type of behavior in FRONT of the school.

  • A few weeks ago, a group of half a dozen 10-12 year olds started throwing rocks at me from across the street. At first, I turned around and put my hands up as if to say, “WTF!”. They continued throwing golfball sized rocks so I decided I should just (quickly) walk away. Not much you can do in a situation like that. I would have liked to reprimand them but they’re not going to change and I’d rather not end up bleeding from my head. Eventually they’ll end up getting in trouble, or worse.

    • “Not much you can do in a situation like that.”

      Call the cops, dude. It might help the next person who walks by there from getting a skull fracture. Better than doing nothing.

      I mean, how far can this passivity go? “Kids are attacking me with deadly weapons. Nothing I can do.”

  • Can’t say I’m surprised to see no one has mentioned the way I would have handled things.

  • I as a SWF had a shop in Shaw about 20 years ago. One day a bunch of black kids were throwing stuff at my windows and calling out bad things. The white male friend visiting me went out. He asked their names in a rough way and asked where they lived. Then he expanded it in an assertive way by asking additional questions and lecturing them. They left. I was worried that they’d come back for vengeance because he had been rough, but instead they came back the next day asking where’s my friend, in a nice way. They liked being dealt with in that way. He was authoritative and concerned. Never had any other trouble- from kids.

  • When a similar incident happened near our house, it was reported to the Principal. She worked with the school’s MPD resource officer and had the children write letters of apology, which they had to present to our neighbor.

  • What’s wrong is wrong. I’m tired of making excuses for these kids – “they’re poor. they’re from bad neighborhoods. their parents.” How’s that going to help them grow up and go through life? They just need discipline and a firm example of right and wrong.

  • I don’t have an answer to the questions, but a warning that this behavior can and does escalate. A couple years back I was walking my dogs one night in Bloomingdale and a couple of 12-ish boys started saying stuff to me; I ignored them, and they proceeded to wing a couple of bricks at me, very nearly hitting me in the head.

  • As a teacher, this behavior even comes into the classroom. From an educator’s perspective, I think it is good to step in and… TEACH. Walk em through conflict resolution! Use your calm, but firm and authoritative voice.

    My response: Excuse me, that is inappropriate. Please apologize. [some sort of kid response] I am sorry you feel that way. I am sorry if I did something to offend you. But if you are frustrated/upset/in a bad mood, it’s okay to feel that way, but it is not okay to take it out on someone else. There are better ways to handle it than to call names, so please apologize (to me, to other person).

    And usually I wrap up with this one Do you understand what I am saying to you? Please repeat back what I am trying to say. (other usual starts include: why are you in trouble/why is what you did not okay and then I let them explain it to me. I then ask them, what do you think is the right thing to do in this situation?).

    Apology, shake of hands, some encouragement to be the better person in every and all situation and do the right thing.

    KIDS WANT ATTENTION AND SOMEONE TO NOTICE and yes, PUT THEM IN THEIR PLACE. Happy kids are kids who know they won’t get away with crap and happy kids are happy when they do the right thing, even if you have to force/encourage them to do it. Dialogue to me is important so that they have their say and they are part of the process, so that is why I throw out a lot of questions for them to answer (they have to own their mistake, and they have to own the reparation).

    even then, they can still be snotty and rude, but at least you said something, and maybe they’ll think about it the next time around.

    • Why should this duty fall to a total stranger? I didn’t get a teaching degree because I don’t want to “teach” bratty kids?

      • All adults, in my opinion, are teachers in one way or another. Kids are very observant and whether or not you’d like them to, they learn from your behavior. So you are teaching them what is okay, what they can get away with, what they can’t, even when you don’t realize it… You ignore their bad behavior, they learn that adults don’t care what they do.

        That’s why I recommend stepping in. You’ll probably earn their respect. In this day and age, they need people, especially adults, who they can respect…and who care about them and their behavior, even if it is coming from a stranger.

    • +1 on this, S. Adults need to hold children accountable (in age appropriate ways) for their behavior.

  • If it’s 1960, and there is a little black girl in Alabama and whites are calling her names, then what would you advise her?

    Stand up for yourself? Walk without fear? Stay fiercely in your seat at the front of the bus.

    It sounds like some of us need to give ourselves this advice because of all these horrible racial interactions.

    I don’t doubt that a lot of my white neighbors are experiencing all kinds of rude racism from little kids. You still have to do your best to bring some awareness to them — and I hope you do whatever you’re comfortable with.

  • To the OP’s question, she should have confronted the children briefly and asked for an apology or else go to a teacher. Kids are still kids, they were showing off and trying to pose tough, but they still don’t like getting in trouble, no matter how hard they’d like you to think they are.

    Moving along, like I mentioned, kids are kids. There is no excuse or justification for children making fun of strangers (or each other) and especially not in a racial sense. But kids make fun of everyone. If you’re fat, skinny, big ears, short, funny clothes, bad hair, smelly, whatever, they’re going to find a way to make fun of you.

    Additionally, the idea of white people victimized by racial characterizations of children in the same way as if it were the other way around racially is laughable to me. As I mentioned before, the kids are wrong, and racial insults just feed into a cycle and culture that is counter productive and hateful, but what is really so insulting about being having your whiteness highlighted.

    even the term cracker if you really think about it, doesnt even have that much teeth in the insult category, since it derives from “whip cracker.” and what are the stereotypes of white people that are so demeaning? uptight, stuck up, spoiled, racist, no rhythm. let’s just be honest, aside from the racism charge, they’re pretty lame stereotypes. and even with the racism label, these kids are basically just harping on their disdain for the perceived privileges and oppression of white people. what else do we call white people? “honky’? that comes from white johns well off enough to own a car driving into black red light districts and honking to get the attention of hookers.

    But look at racism that’s normally geared toward blacks: stupid, uneducated, criminal, thug, oversexed, unrefined. when you use the term ‘nigger’ or whatever, that’s the negativity behind it.

    this is the cycle of racism. A few white people look down on all black people based on stereotypes and superiority complexes. a few black people, in turn lash out at all white people for being looked down upon and oppressed in their minds. but if you look to the core of these reasons, this whole equating racism shtick going on here drips in self righteousness.

    even with all that said, we all need to be mature enough as adults to be honest about what’s going on so we can break the cycle for these kids. to the OP, if i overheard those kids say that to you, i would personally help you reprimand those kids, and i would be happy to talk to whatever school official or parents or whatever to make sure the kids learned the damage of their words. I’m not fully anonymous on this board. you can hold me accountable for my words. but let us never be so naive to think that any racism=all racism. it’s not the same.

  • I had a similar experience in the CH Target last year. I was walking to the check-out line and 2 young girls (couldn’t have been older than 10 or 11) were kind of blocking the aisle. I said excuse me, they moved, I said thanks, and as I moved past them and there was a few paces between us, one of the girls screamed out, “OK, BITCH!” I turned back to look at them and they just stood there laughing at me.

    It was so disorienting and hurtful- I had no idea what to do. I tried to look and see if they had a parent with them, but I couldn’t tell, so I just gave up and left. It still really bothers me to this day.

  • I was walking up my street the other evening (probably around 8:00/8:30) like I’ve done almost every day for the past 2 years. As I was walking, I had to pass a bunch of young kids (probably the same age as the OP’s, 12-14) and smiled and said hi to the first in the group, making eye contact and continuing on my way. Then the last in the group waited until I was about even with him and leaped toward me, but stopping just short. I, as any human with reflexes, jerked away a little bit (never even turning my head toward him) but then kept walking. He starts cracking up and his friend do too, saying ‘I scared her! Did you see her jump! I scared her!” I muttered something over my shoulder but kept walking. I can only imagine they will get bolder and bolder as the warm weather continues. This was really nothing–just standard child’s play, but I hope it doesn’t progress to stuff like throwing things, as others have mentioned previously in this thread.

  • The same thing happened to me, with the exception of having rocks thrown at me. I knew what school they were from b/c they were wearing t-shirts with the school name as part of the uniform. I went directly to the school and asked to speak with the principal who was appalled, apologetic and followed up with me twice after the incident to keep me posted on how they handed the situation. For what started as a bad situation, it gave me hope for the administrators and the school.

    I went to the principal b/c I didn’t want the kids to think it was an acceptable way to act, or that there would be no repurcussions for their actions.

    I truly believe they expected me to keep walking and just forget about the incident.

  • POP really has become Dalai Lama this past week..ppl no longer trust their own judgment and or common sense, instead they rush to their computers to draft emails inquiring on how things shouldve been handled. Should I tell tourists to put their valuables under the seat? Hmmm impossible for me to deduce what I should do on my own, i’ll ask POP. KIDS call me a name, should I let it go or should I stand up for myself? hmmm too tough of a call, what does POP think? Drop the whole defenseless act and you will find it a little easier to get around this town…

    • dude, its a way for people to have fun. this site is fun.

    • Prince Of Petworth

      Perhaps this site is no longer for you? I find these questions to be extremely interesting/useful. If you don’t like them I’ll gladly refund your subscription fee and we can part ways amicably. Cheers.

    • It is depressing to find that there do seem to be so many defenseless people living amongst us. Defend yourselves, people. What is with the timidity?

  • Photograph the kids, tell the teacher and file a complaint with the police. The kids may as well get a track record now so they can be sentenced next time as a repeat offender.

  • I say DCPS requires a field trip to the nearest jail for all “troubled” middle schoolers. Like in the show Beyond Scared Straight. Why not just show the troublemakers what their future will be and point out that life in jail kind of sucks.

  • I think I have to agree with the folks saying that the principal should be notified/the kids should be talked to respectfully, but forcefully. The teacher who stated that kids just want attention, but also structure to their universe, is correct.

    I also think that some of the commenters are getting lost when they equate cracker as being the same as the n-word. The fact that no one types out the n-word in this thread, but everyone throws around cracker points to the historical roots of both words, and their inextricable link to history and power dynamics. It’s that little annoying fact that even though it happened a “long” time ago, it still matters and is still relevant.

    That being said, racists of all colors are assholes.

  • Honestly it’s like this plain and simple – society is still irreparably harmed by the sins of some of our ancestors. On the daily, the 400 year old legacy of slavery manifests itself in many ways. History is a bitch. Historical apathy is hubris, dangerous and telling of your (lack of) humanity.

  • I was at an ATM in Columbia Heights at night when a group of teenage girls came up RIGHT behind me….like literally not even two feet behind me while I was taking out cash. Not even knowing who it was behind me I turned around and gave a dirty, what the hell are you doing getting so close to me at an ATM look? They then started yelling RACIST! and pointing at me and saying, that stupid white bitch is scared of black people. I really, really wanted to turn around and say no, I could care less what color you are, you just don’t stand so close to someone who is taking money from an ATM. But I knew no matter what I said it wouldn’t change their thinking. The whole interaction shook me up much like the OP. I think more than anything because it made me realize what a deep divide we still have between races in this country- and in DC in particular.

    • Holy sh*t.

      The “racist” slurs are one thing, and the other big problem is the “bullying” group.

      This is so completely irrational. They don’t know you at all.

      I’ve had to inform people of that before, just simply by saying, “You don’t know me. You don’t know me.”

      I agree completely with your reaction here, just to get away and not interact because this was clearly a case of baiting you and it’s not healthy in that close space next to the ATM, etc.

      I really think that anything you said here would be feeding fuel to a fire.

  • Your existence in this city has been extremely sheltered if this is so shocking to you. As a white male who has worked in DC schools for 4 years, this is a weekly occurrence. I would say, simply, toughen up a little bit. These are kids. Kids say stupid, immature things. Going to the principal, or tattling to a teacher only solidifies the stereotype that “crackers” are privileged or spineless. Toughen up, for the rest of our sake.

  • you honestly want sympathy? What about 30 year old adults who call 10 year old children “nigger” that only happened 40 years ago? wrong, It happened when I was 10 and I am younger than you. You are hurt because for the first time in your life you felt hated simply because the color of your skin? Well welcome to the life of a minority.

    Im not saying it’s right, but before you get all hurt that your little bubble popped, why don’t you think about the situation. These Kids face that everyday and will face it everyday when they are in the [white] world.

    You all want to move into a highly displaced black neighbored so you can afford to live in the city, and expect it to be mr. rogers neighborhood?

    talk about white privilege.

  • rofl…caucasians consider it insulting to be called a word that means your family has lived in an area since before it was tamed into civilization? As in, the first people to “crack” the earth and scratch out a living in said area. Most plantation owners even referred to themselves as such. That’s why black people started calling them that. You folks are too much. The word your people came up with for african slaves is actually an insult. Until you get called something that’s actually demeaning, shut up and quit whining. And when you see that many people clogging the sidewalk, especially if they’re acting like urban thugs (you more than likely had plenty of warning upon approach of what kind of black kids they were, but like many sheep, you just failed to be aware of your surroundings. I’m sorry, but this is where a lot of caucasians fail. A lot.), your self-preservation sense should have been tingling. I mean, really…caucasian females are skittish as hell around black people anyway (QUICKLY slamming down the grocery divider at supermarkets, even when the black guy’s groceries are a good 3 feet away from theirs on the conveyer belt, leaping out of the way just because a flap of their clothing gently brushes a black guy’s arm as they pass, etc). You must’ve been zoned out pretty hard. Yes, it’s “everyone’s sidewalk”, but idiots still will get mad and possibly eff you up if you interject yourself into their world, so guess what? You take that ego of yours and toss it to the side…and GO AROUND. You DO NOT go THROUGH a group of people just standing in one spot, especially if it’s a bunch of kids acting like they’re from the projects. Go around, preferably the side they’re all facing away from. Don’t do that stupid crap bullied girls do in those dumbass disney movies. Don’t mentally shout “I AM A PERSON TOO!” and stride forward, hoping that will make everyone your friend cuz it worked for some blonde chick in a vapid movie aimed at high school female teens. A little grass won’t hurt your feet, and it could save your ass. Street smarts. Having been in the projects for most of my teenage years (what black kid in Florida HASN’T??) common sense says save yourself from possibly getting swung on from somebody in the crowd. You need to realize the world doesn’t belong to you, and there are many people who are more than happy to show you that, since they blame you for their own parents’ bad decisions.

    • it’s funny. i’ve heard so many theories as to the origins of the word cracker. i grew up believing that it mean person of no substance. not a meal, just a wispy pasty cracker. also, the word nigger was not conceived as an insult at all. Both it, and the name of the nation Niger have their origin in the latin for black. so i guess black people shouldn’t be insulted by it? of course not. connotation is everything, with nigger as it is with cracker. nobody should be using these words. and yet people will always be using these words.

      but regardless of the hazy histories, i agree with you 100% on the rest of your post.

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