Sticks and stones

I’m sharing some painful memories, which are offered to illustrate, rather than to offend. Please forgive the coarse language I’ve quoted. It was common “back in the day.” Thankfully, those days were long ago.

After school one day, my brother told our mother a classmate called him a “kite.” Our teachers told us, “Sticks and stones can break our bones, but words will never hurt us,” and the phrase, “I’m rubber, and you’re glue. Whatever you say bounces off me, and sticks to you,” was offered in reply to bullying and name-calling.

My mother replied, “Tell him he’s uncouth.”

The next day, my brother told Mom his antagonist had had gotten him in trouble by telling their teacher my brother called him a “coon.”  Mom calmly explained that “kyke” was a derogatory name for a Jew, and “coon,” was an equally insulting name for an African American. At that time, African Americans were still called “colored people,” and “Negroes.”

It’s important to mention that our father was a Jew. Our mother wasn’t. The little boy hurling the racial slurs was white.

My mother was in a difficult situation, because our family was vulnerable, but Mom never permitted others’ prejudice to intimidate her. We learned to ignore the taunts and not to engage with the provocateurs. Fifty years ago, when words were the weapons, rather than guns, that was the appropriate response.

I wish I could end this essay, here, but I need to add an explicit conclusion.

More guns is not the appropriate response.

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About Jane Wilson

Jane Wilson graduated from the University of Michigan Law School, was a trial attorney for 25 years and has served on the faculty of the National Institute for Trial Advocacy on numerous occasions. She was an Adjunct Professor of Law at Cleveland State University for several years and served as an Interim Associate Professor of Law in the clinical program at Case Law School. In 2009, she returned to the small southwestern Michigan community where she was raised, and wrote a novel.
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4 Responses to Sticks and stones

  1. Sue Glasco says:

    I know that anti-bully folk think that the sticks-and-stones comment is inadequate–and, of course, it often may be. (I had never before heard the glue defense one. I like it.) But the individual’s internal attitude that vile words attacking you are of no importance is a good attitude for the insulted one to have because bullies pick on weak people. That cowardice is what makes them a bully. I loved what Carly Fiorina (Did I spell that name right?) did to Donald Duck Trump. Sometimes bullying can be stopped by self confidence. Recently, at one table with just 8 people, I heard two sets of parents tell about their child being bullied. In both cases, the child was bullyed by three other kids–that is a hard one to fight: three against one. One case was at school–and the teacher seemed clueless.Your mother seemed wise, and I loved her teaching your brother “uncouth” even if it didn’t get understood. Maybe that teacher was clueless too. I have been praying for the two bullied kids the parents at the table talked about, and I am also praying that someone will help those two gangs-of-three, for those children are even more pitiful than the ones bullied. Sticks and stones are terrible weapons against humans, but guns are even worse. So is mental illness.

    • Jane Wilson says:

      Sue,

      All the tolerance in the world will not obscure what we know about misguided people. I’ve realized we can try to educate, and we can pray, but we need to speak out.

      Thanks for your conviction, and wisdom.

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