He could feel the stares. They all stood there, watching. His books were scattered on the floor, papers strewn across the grungy linoleum. His back pressed against the locker, the combination lock digging into his flesh, scraping him. No one moved to intervene. No one helped pick up his papers or books. No one drew attention to themselves.
The bully, laughing, feeling better about his own existence and suddenly powerful, walks away with his buddies. Still no one moves or says anything.
He avoids the stares as he drops to the floor and begins to retrieve his possessions. He’ll have to rewrite that essay for World Literature. The teacher won’t care that it was destroyed by the bully. With head bowed, carrying his books close to his body in the hopes that no one else will knock them out of his hand, he burrows a path through the crowded halls to his next class. Perhaps someone else will be the next target and he can get through the rest of the day unscathed.
People step away from him, not wanting to be a target for the next barrage of high school bullying. Even those who pat him on the back and call him friend hide their faces when the bullies come near. It’s better to allow someone else take the brunt of the abuse and stay out of the line of sight. Don’t draw attention to yourself. Hide. Blend in. Go unnoticed.
And therein lies the problem. The time for silence is over. The time to think this is acceptable behavior and a rite of passage has come and gone. Remaining silent when someone else is being attacked and abused is a crime and if we refuse to get involved when we see it, we forfeit the right to have others stand for us when we fall under attack. We should not hide from hate, but rather, stand up to it and stomp it out. The bullied far outnumber the bullies and if we just stand and say, “No more,” the sheer force of numbers will silence those who would cause fear and havoc in people’s lives.
You may think that the battle is not yours, but that is truly a coward’s way out. When you see an injustice being committed, you need to speak out. Do not think that it will never happen to you because bullies go from football Jerseys to three-piece suits, from jocks to politicians. When a freedom is stripped from you because others can justify their silence by saying that it doesn’t affect them, you will wish they would join the cause. Silence is never justified. “I don’t want to get involved” just won’t cut it anymore. The time is now. The silence must end. People need to know you will stand by them. It only takes one to start a movement in the right direction. It only takes one to show someone that they are not alone. I challenge you to be that one. End the silence and together we can end the hate.
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