When Words Seek to Destroy

They’re certainly entitled to think that, and they’re entitled to full respect for their opinions… but before I can live with other folks I’ve got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience. ~Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird, Chapter 11, spoken by the character Atticus

Today, I begin on a more serious note. There are several things that Terri @ Rags Against The Machine and I share in common, but one sad fact recently popped up…both of our daughters had experienced bullying due to the paleness of their skin.

It is ironic to me that my sweet baby J had to face rejection for the first time during a middle school lesson from To Kill A Mockingbird….adolescents can be so blind. They began to bully and show prejudice at the same time they were reading about it. But, at that time, a group of boys started to call her “Boo Radley” (the albino recluse from the book) and once they knew it upset her…they poured it on. The only saving grace was that there was no Face Book at the time…the weapon of choice for most teen bullies today…which would have made an already unbearable situation much worse.

In Texas, women and girls are esteemed if they are bleach- blonde with tan skin and many of her MS friends already tanned to achieve this look and acceptance. Sweet J was horrified at her treatment and began a regime to constantly be in the sun or go to tanning salons. The boys’ words intensified in high school  and her obsession to look and be a certain way grew. Both of us look back on her high school years with sadness and wish we had stood up and handled this situation differently. There’s that “hindsight” again…ouch!  But all she really wanted was acceptance from a particular group which with held it just to be mean.

I am happy to report that she has overcome with maturity and faith the scars of her past. But, she constantly worries about skin cancer from the days that she would fry her skin to receive approval… which never really came. She is a gorgeous woman with beautiful porcelain skin tones and her compassionate heart, developed primarily from the treatment she received, allows her to reach out in love to people of all skin tones and to be forgiving of those who were so cruel.

Recently, some of the fashion bloggers have experienced a rash of negative comments on their looks and their blogs…. really, the same type of behavior as a 14-year-old, immature bully.  I would just say to the naysayers:  Words are powerful…they can cut deep wounds and leave scars which last a lifetime. Many of the sweet ladies who pen these blogs are just as vulnerable as my daughter was in MS.  Remember: Love & Acceptance are the salve which heal all wounds and breakdown walls.  Please think before you comment and do not take your words lightly.

Please join Terri for her story @ Rags Against the Machine…..


  1. great message, pam. my girl is experiencing something on a lesser scale, but still a form of bullying, i believe. kids can be so cruel, and their hurtful words/actions really do leave an impression on their "victims". sorry to hear what your daughter went thru….i'm sure it was just as difficult on you to watch her go thru this.


  2. Hi there, I came over from Serene's blog and just want to say my heart just goes out to your daughter (I know it's in the past but still, what an awful thing to experience) and to all the other people who are bullied. This just doesn't make sense to me at all and I always am amazed to see how very often it takes place in all areas of life. It's so sad that more people don't practice kindness and at least trying to speak words that lift others up. Hopefully all those of us who are against this, whether it be ins school, work, or ignorant comments left on blogs, can lead by a better example of how to treat others.

    Once again I am sorry your daughter went through this but it does sound as though she has come out of it a beautiful and confident woman.

    Have a great day!

  3. I have a son, not a daughter. He has Cerebral Palsy. I learned much later that he had been teased in middle school. Kids are so mean. He is 25 now, but still suffers from body image issues, etc.

  4. I agree, kids can be so mean! I lived in a small town and was the only redhead around. The high school boys teased me (elementary student) when I walked past the school on the way home (I don't know if it was mean spirited or not) and I HATED it. It hurts the parent as much as the child when bullying happens. I see women my age (or younger) who have tanned and still do, their faces look like leather….skin cancer or not, they look bad. Hoefully the few years your daughter 'fried' herself will not have caused as much dammage as those who have done it all their lives. From the photo you posted of your daughter earlier she looks like a beautiful young woman.I have had several pre cancerous patches removed from my arms already. When I was little we didn't know about sun block. sorry for this 'book'.

  5. OH PAM! I AM SOOOOOO BLESSED TO MEET YOU! I am at school at the moment, but hopped into my blog just to take a peek and there you were. I have to start my day now, but I will be back soon to visit. Thank you for your lovely words and I AGREE…I will be 53 on Saturday and I DO NOT FEEL IT! I believe in forever young in the heart and mind. Sure the bod is feeling some twings here and there, but it is just a shell (see my post called, FREE AS A BIRD) but I feel that I am growing young in my MIND AND HEART! So sorry to read about J…..I know what it is like to experience bullying due to skin color. I grew up in S.Central Los Angeles!!! DURING THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT TO BOOT!

    Do come back, I will follow you. Anita

  6. Pam, That's just awful!! And it's just as awful when "mature" women behave in such a way as well! I had no idea that there was such a rash of negative comments going on in the blogosphere recently. That's really too bad. The rule of thumb should be "If you can't comment something kind, don't comment at all." That's not to say that all comments have to be sycophantic flattery, but even disagreement can be kind. Email me those sizes girly…Let the hunt begin!!! Love to you! ~Serene

  7. It's terrible, what some kids can do. My son has mild CP and severe retardation, but a sunny disposition. He also is a very handsome kid, which, as shallow as this is, I believe has warded off at least some teasing/bullying. He's in middle school now, which is the age when those behaviors really kick in.

    There's something about the anonymity of the internet that brings out the worst in some people who might be too cowardly in real life to spread their venom. I try to remind myself that they're probably miserable in their own lives, and though it doesn't excuse that behavior it helps me to take it less personally.

  8. When will it ever end? As parents, we need to teach our children to encourage and support others and not the opposite. It's even more sad that adults are partaking in such activities. Haven't we learned yet? The truth of the matter is, all of the negative energy they are inflicting on others is coming from a place within. They are not happy with themselves. I know it sounds like a cliche but it's the truth. Misery loves company. I love the quote you have at the beginning of this post. When we can except and be happy with ourselves, then we can encourage and uplift others. It starts inside you. I just wish people would realize this and stop focusing on making others as miserable as they are 🙁

  9. Oh, how awful. Bullying is so bad and so horrible to watch, especially when you are the parent of the child that is suffering. In some countries, fair skin is considered the most beautiful. The obsession w/ tanning in our country is out of control. I spent way too much time in the sun as a teen and now I'm paying for it. I am sure having a loving supportive mother helped her through those difficult years. Thanks for sharing. xo

  10. A very lovely post on a very serious topic. My heart goes out to your daughter. I was bullied in school and it took me many years to get past the bitterness that engendered.

  11. I'll never understand bullying, on the internet or in real life. Tearing other people down isn't worth it, and there are so many other positive ways to use our limited time.

  12. Words hurt for sure….I know first hand..my daughter constantly got picked on when she was overweight:( How horrible…people need to grow up, and take a good hard look at themselves…NO ONE is perfect.

  13. Pam–Having read your post, I am pondering this as an academic. Amongst African-Americans, a great deal of emphasis is placed upon lighter skin. In fact, my students this semester have even mentioned to me the paper-bag test. And yet, European-Americans will tan themselves to death. (I know I did as a teenager). The irony is that your daughter's paleness is of a high cultural value…context is all. Teaching children to negotiate the context is very, very tricky.

  14. I'm so sorry to hear that. Your post touched my heart. Kids can be so cruel and we all have been through hard times at school and even kindergarten. I wish there was something we could do about it – but I think the main lesson is: Take care of your children, educate them and make sure they know the difference between right and wrong. Most of it is achieved by being a role model for them.

  15. I'm so sorry about unkind comments. Thank God I had not had to deal with any of those yet. I was sure I'd get some when I posted my duct tape shoes, lol!
    Anyway, so glad your daughter has overcome. My kids are 7 and almost 6. I want them so badly to be strong, but I know tough times are coming! Do you have any advise on helping your children to always open up. My daughter doesn't have a problem telling me all, but my son is like they say "a man of a few words".

  16. I have been a faithful reader of your blog for a while now but have never commented. First – I love your blog and your style! You always looke very pretty and polished.

    Secondly – I'm saddened when I hear stories like this. I too was made fun of in school. Growing up in a beach town in So. Cal I did not fit the "surfer babe" look with my fair skin and curly dark hair. I don't consider myself ugly but I sure was made to feel that way in school.

    For adults to partake in this sort of thing really baffles me. It's so immature.

    Thank you for a touching post.


  17. Because of the relentless bullying I got my freshman year in High School, I worry about my young nieces going to school. I just wouldn't want anyone to go through what I went through. Part of it was that I was poor and wore hand-me-downs. Ill fitting clothing that wasn't what anyone else was wearing. I've worked hard to be confident in clothes as an adult and am still working hard to feel confident.

    So, yes, I hear you. I hurt for what your daughter went through. And for all the kids that get bullied. It's just so awful.


  18. Pam~Kids can be so mean–I was surprised to hear what they'll dream up in order to ostrasize someone. I love that book, though! We re-read it in book club last year; and the movie is a great representation.
    I had a very wierd experience with bullying and my sons while one was in the 8th grade and the other in the 10th. The younger one was suspended for bullying–no graduation–no prom; while my older one was being beaten up every day after school! It was an awful dynamic, and off to the counselors we went. We worked out the family traumas at the time, but it was strange being on both sides. The school was suportive and watchful for my son the victim, and I backed them all the way on my bullying son's suspension–as heartbreaking as that was. I made sure I contacting ALL parents invovolved–to let them know I was aware and trying to work on it. It all ended up fine–I know both boys have moved on emotionally. And I know they have healthy relationships now with the kids–on either side.

  19. I'm so sorry to hear of the bullying. I, too, have always had very pale skin and my 17 year old daughter has inherited this skin coloring. I spent most of my life trying to get tan and wreaking havoc on my skin, and regret it immensely at age 53. My daughter, fortunately, loves being pale. No one has given her a hard time about it — thank Heaven! (She doesn't have — nor do my husband and I — a Facebook account, Twitter, etc.) I think that helps a lot. Bullies are cowards. Those who do it via the internet — and those who do it anonymously are even worse. Let your daughter know there are people "out here" who are praying for her, and who think her beautiful with her lovely complexion. She's lucky to have a wonderful, loving mother who will walk with her through the bad as well as the good.
    This is the first time I have seen your blog, but I will be checking in to see how you and your girl are doing. I wish you and her all the best. Gentle hugs!

  20. Wise words. I was bullied for my looks as a teen, too, so I'm very sorry that both of your daughters faced this.

    And yes: Let us resolve to make our blogs into cruelty-free zones! Positivity and mutual support are, I think, what many of us strive for. Bullying experiences help us to see how important it is to build others up rather than tearing them down.

  21. I can't imagine ridiculing someone for pale skin, but I suppose I've got the 'grass is always greener' mentality since I've always had darker skin…

    I would not stand for any cruel comments on my blog, and have been fortunate to not have faced any yet — Though i wonder if that is because I do not allow annon commenting?

    Bloggers put a lot of effort into their blogs, they put their best foot (in their cutest shoes) forward, and no one has the right to leave mean spirited comments.
    And I don't mean constructive criticism, which I am happy to give and receive, but just hatefulness for no reason.

    I think middle school is full of drama for everyone; for some reason it is the time when all your elementray friends become your frienemies and you have to find new ones. Somehow, we get through it.

  22. What a fantastic post! Great to get the message out there! Kids can be so cruel! But you are right it has made your daughter into the beautiful woman she is!

  23. Pam,
    As a middle school teacher I see this happen every day. The bullied child doesn't want to make a fuss for fear of making it worse and they usually don't tell anyone, the bullies, I feel are just too immature (or lacking in in compassion) to realize how much damage they are doing.
    When a teacher finds out and reports it, usually little is done if anything by the administration, So they can put all the "no bullying" signs up that they want, but it is so not the answer.

    I was afraid my biracial twins would be teased for not having the same looks as my husband and myself although they are really light skined and since we live in the mixing pot of South Florida, rarely get any looks or discussion, and any that they did ended when Katie was 8 and in a school production. I had to bring her a new shirt and as I walked into a room of about 200 people, I heard my little pip squeek yell "See I told you my Mom was white"
    I am a little more worried about how things will be with our 8 year old Asian daughter. I get confused when people stare in the mall (and these are grown ups) I think, "what, is my fly down? do I have something on my shirt?" and then I realize they are staring at us with Jia…

    Sadly, from a teachers point of view middle school is a rough place (hence my disabilty) I am glad your daughter made it through.

    Ps. And totally beside the point I am so angry they used my favorite book to tease your daughter.

  24. Being a pale girl myself, I feel your daughters pain. The cruelness and ignorance of some people amazes me. Once I had a grown woman tell me if she was as pale as me she wouldnt ever wear shorts. I was wearing shorts at the time. Worst thing is I didn't even know this woman. She obviously just felt like she should share. Yea..what a sweetie.

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