I experienced severe racist bullying

Andrea, a member of our community, was severely bullied as a result of her race. She was forced to miss school just to avoid facing her aggressors. Now, she urges anyone facing this kind of racist bullying to speak out. Here is her story.

True Stories

A young woman is sitting at a desk. She is writing about racist bullying. This is a wide-angle image.

A message from The Mix: Racist jokes and bullying on the grounds of race, religion or ethnicity is never ok. It can even be considered a hate crime in some circumstances. So if you or someone you know is being bullied, know that you’re not alone and plenty of help is available to make it stop. For more support for beating bullying, see this article.

Once again I found myself locked in the girls’ toilet, crying and struggling to catch my breath. School had become my own private hell. My self-esteem had hit an all-time low; I hated myself. Dabbing the milk that one of my classmates had thrown in my hair, I knew I was experiencing racial bullying. But somehow I still couldn’t help but blame myself.

Early school life

My earliest memories of school were happy ones. When I was 10, my parents sent me to boarding school in Kenya, where they’re originally from. They thought it would be valuable for me to experience my own culture, and they were totally right. I had the time of my life as well as an enriching education. Being in an international school gave me a real understanding and appreciation for different nationalities and cultural attitudes. All of my classmates were so open-minded and welcoming. Not to mention the fact that we all took advantage of the beautiful landscape and wildlife.

My first experience of racist bullying

Although I enjoyed Kenya, I was excited to come home when I was 13 and start a local private school. The first few days went by without an issue and I even spoke to a few girls in my class. But on the third day things started to change.

I noticed some girls pointing and laughing at me. I tried to ignore it, but later one approached me with an evil grin. She asked me about living in Kenya. Naturally, I thought she was just interested to hear about my culture. Instead she called me that disgusting word that has been used by ignorant and evil people for years (the ‘n-word’). She told me that people like me didn’t belong in the school. I felt sick to my stomach. I had never experienced racism on such an explicit level.

The different types of bullying I experienced

Things only got worse from there. Since my tormentors were popular, most of the year group either went along with the racism, or just ignored me. People would whisper and laugh as I walked past. When the teachers weren’t around, they would call me names, such as ‘jungle girl’ and ‘shadow’ and toss out racist jokes. Although I knew these were disgusting, ignorant comments, I still took them to heart. I went from feeling proud and special, to ugly and alienated.

There are different types of bullying. My bullying started off as verbal abuse but soon it turned physical. They started throwing milk at me during lunchtime and taunting me for how my hair was different to theirs. On a daily basis I was sworn at, told to go home, and that my family should die. The ‘n-word’ was also thrown about regularly. The bullying made me feel so ashamed of myself that I didn’t tell my parents or teachers. I suffered alone, constantly running to the toilets to cry. I didn’t feel safe

My marks at school quickly plummeted and I hardly went out. I was a shell of my former self. I started bunking school, using faked sick notes and making phone calls pretending to be my mum. Eventually, my school worked out what I was doing and one day I came home to my parents, stony-faced, saying we needed a talk.

Getting help tackling racist bullying

My parents were so angry. They thought I was just being a rebellious teenager and grounded me.  When I finally told them that I was ashamed of my race, they were shocked and appalled. It took weeks of meetings with teachers for me to finally admit what had been said and who’d been saying it. I felt so low; I thought I deserved the bullying. Thankfully, after I opened up, I was assured that racist slurs are beyond wrong and ignorant.

I was pulled out of the school as the teachers took action. Diversity workshops were incorporated into the curriculum, the bullies were suspended and their parents were called in for meetings. They were told that the police would get involved if the behaviour continued.

New school, new start

Despite all the anti-bullying measures being put into place my parents didn’t want me to go back. They put me in a new school and my first week couldn’t have been more of a contrast from my previous school. Initially, I was wary of the popular kids due to years of abuse and prejudice. But after making friends with a lovely mix of people, I was made to feel special and normal again. When I was called up in front of the class as the ‘new girl’, people seemed genuinely interested in my Kenyan background. I wasn’t different to these people, but a part of them. I felt at home again.

How to stop racist bullying

Always speak up and tell someone. We all know bullying on the ground of race, religion or class in schools is totally unacceptable. Unfortunately, that doesn’t stop it from happening. It can be very difficult to stand up for yourself, especially when you’re just a teenager. That’s why it’s so important to tell someone if you witness ANY kind of racism, whether it’s a microagression or a hate crime. Different ethnicities should be celebrated and embraced, not punished.

You can read The Mix’s  expert chat on bullying here as well as our advice for helping friends beat bullying here

Take a look at The Mix’s self-care guide for those who are impacted by racism.

Next Steps

  • If you have witnessed or experienced racist or xenophobic harassment, please submit your experience to iStreetWatch who track racist and xenophobic harassment in public spaces.
  • BullyingUK offers advice and support to victims of bullying. Call on 0808 800 2222.
  • The Self-Esteem Team (SET) run workshops in schools across the UK to help tackle young people's issues with body image, self-worth and mental health.
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.

Tags:

bullying| racism

By Andrea Bew

Updated on 06-Nov-2021