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?

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