Tell Your Story Even (and Especially) If No One Listens

I was telling my story to somebody the other day and I got to the various injustices of racism I’ve endured, and he told me, “That doesn’t happen. Not anymore.” I insisted it did, and he counter-insisted, “That’s just something everybody goes through, you’re just injecting race into it.” I tried to tell him about the times someone had physically assaulted me while yelling “ch_nk” or “go_k” or “yellow kid” or “your dad killed my dad in the war,” but he kept telling me, “That’s not that bad.”

So I excused myself from the conversation. I felt a bit humiliated, honestly. This was a guy I really trusted, who I was sure would understand. He was absolutely adamant he was right.

I’ve seen this sort of thing with mental health, sexual abuse, family upbringing, classism, gender, religion—you try to tell your story, and a wall comes up. You get the reply, “It’s never happened to me, therefore it never happens.” And you start to wonder: Am I the crazy one? Is it just in my head? Am I overreacting and too sensitive, like they’re saying?

But then I’ve found those who heard me. Who listened. Who weren’t just treating me like a sad pity project or asking out of voyeuristic curiosity. I’ve found safe people who may not have gone through the same thing, but they can literally become the other. They pause to believe.

I’ve also found those who have walked in the same shoes and skin. Sometimes they thought they were walking alone, against insurmountable forces with no community and zero support—until they heard someone say a similar story and they knew they weren’t crazy. That gives me enough courage to keep speaking, to keep sharing. It’s in the telling of our stories we find healing, and each other. You may be lonely for a while, but you are not alone.
— J.S.

3 thoughts on “Tell Your Story Even (and Especially) If No One Listens

  1. Very good thoughts, especially the opening note.

    As to your in-denial acquaintance, he’s right insofar that everyone gets bullied. Absolutely everyone has, at some point, gotten slashed for being short, tall, scrawny, overweight, handicapped, a baby, too pushy, sloppy, too neat, culturally different, racially different. And if the slasher drew blood, he/she kept on.

    I’m white, so no racial stuff, but got bullied in school because my name was weird. And my uncle who raised me was a bully of the “You’re stupid, useless, lazy, can never amount to anything,” type. So no help there to stand against the cruelty of the outside world. I do think that parents who stand with their kids (NOT stroking their ego constantly, but simply accepting and valuing them) give their children the affirmation they need to resist the slashing and not let it draw blood.

    The most secure person I ever knew, my mom-in-law, was born with no hip joints and walked like a cripple all her life. Plus she was only 4’8″. But she was loved and valued, not babied and catered to, at home. In her adult years no one could put her down — or it was THEIR problem, not hers.

    Some people need to slash. Somehow it eases their own pain. So you’re right: people are still being, and will be, bullied specifically because of race, religion, or whatever other obvious difference.


  2. Thank you for sharing this. I needed to hear this today as it works both ways. My pause to receive your words is also your pause to receive mine, whether I have spoken it to your or not. Thank you


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