Living in a small town in Brazil, it wasn’t easy to be one of the few Asians of the city. Even though the kids in my school were respectful towards me, the kids from other schools weren’t.
When I was in high school, I used to go to school after lunch, from 12:30 pm until 5:30 pm, if I’m not mistaken. My house was far from it, so when the classes were over, I took the bus with my friends.
I remember HATING waiting for and taking the bus when it was full of kids from other schools because they used to say horrible things to me. They didn’t have filters inside their mouths, and they didn’t care if they were extremely rude and impolite with me. I remember arriving at my house, locking myself inside my bedroom and crying. I hated being a Brazilian-Asian.
There is a particular day that I have never forgotten. I’m not sure why. I remember being at the bus stop with my friends after school, waiting for the bus. There were other people around us, including an older man. I believe he was more than 70 years old, and he was sitting alone. One bus full of kids from a different school stopped in front of the bus stop where I was at, and the kids inside of it started shouting and screaming horrible things to me. Words like “you are an ugly Japanese”, “open your eyes or you’d rather keep them close because you are too ugly”, “go back to Japan, you ugly Japanese”, things like that. The whole bus was saying those things to me, and my friends and everybody around me were quiet, watching them and listening to them, while I was almost crying. NOBODY said anything to defend me. There were adults behind me, including the older man, but they just kept staring at me, like they were mocking me as if they agreed with what those horrible kids were saying to me. I remember getting so mad that I shouted to the kids to fuck them off. At the second that I did it, the older man stood up and shouted at me, telling me to shut up, that my Mom didn’t educate me, that I was a terrible person for saying those words. I got so stunned at his behaviour towards me that I just kept staring at him, thinking if I was really wrong for defending myself. I felt like asking him why he was scolding me, but I didn’t because my parents always taught me to respect the elderly. But I spent years thinking about that older man, about the way he shouted at me, telling me to shut up. I kept asking myself why he didn’t tell those kids to stop bullying me, because I was quiet in my corner, just listening to them until something inside of me snapped.
Today, I understand that those kids were behaving that way because nobody told them that it was not okay to say those things and treat people that way. I finally realized that I was different inside that small city, and that was enough to make me a target.
I don’t know what happened to the older man afterwards, because I chose to ignore him and ignore his words. I was defending myself, and I don’t regret it. I had never told anybody about this episode, until today.
Every time that I go back to Brazil and I’m walking in the street with buses and kids inside them, I flinch and try to hide myself. I avoid them at all costs. I avoid being near children and teenagers that I don’t know because of those hurtful memories that still hunt me.
I believe that nowadays, the kids understand that everybody deserves respect, at least in the city that I was born and grew up in. I believe that parents are teaching their kids that words can hurt and can mark people for the rest of their lives.
I’m not a broken woman because of what those kids used to shout at me, but I do admit that I have scars and memories that will never leave me.
Each and every person has a soul, has a heart. Words can hurt much more than we can imagine, so it’s our responsibility to teach our children about respect and unconditional love towards other people, no matter the colour of the skin, the nationality, the differences.
I wish that the older man would have protected me instead of telling me to shut up. Maybe I would have one less scar inside my soul and plus one good memory inside my heart.