Recently, I watched a South African comedy show. I was affected by some of the jokes around ‘coloured’ people, particularly around some of the comments made about hair. I realized that as South Africans, and as a coloured community, we are deeply affected by our past. That acknowledged, we cannot allow that to be an excuse for name-calling.
I can speak from personal experience. Growing up, I was incredibly conscious of my weight, hair and skin. My hair wasn’t straight enough, I was ‘too thin’ and my grade 7 teacher had counted the amount of spots on my forehead before our year’s photographs- I’ve never forgotten that moment and carried resentment towards my name callers for many years! I may have moved past a lot of that but I am still affected- who wouldn’t be?
Name callers don’t care if you are smart or caring or funny or going through a tough time- all they care about is the thing they can see that bothers them (that sometimes makes them feel inferior or intimidated, which they jump on and hide behind) and they cripple someone’s individuality and strength with their ugly words. Too many people feel comfortable voicing their nastiness, masked under the the malice labeled ‘honesty’. Admittedly, I’ve poked fun at things about individuals in their absence but that, too, is wrong!
Back to why the comedy affected me. The problem with name calling is that it, often, happens to children. In my community so many girls get told that they need to do x or y before they are considered beautiful. We breed insecurities and, eventually, our children go to schools where their insecurities play out in the bullying and name-calling of others.
Adults say mean things to and about children and it needs to stop before those children repeat the cycle as adults.
I don’t have children of my own but I work with teenagers and I see beautiful, talented and amazingly inspiring, young girls crumble under the idea that they are not good enough because someone mocked their abilities or physical appearance. I’d probably cry if my daughter (or son for that matter) were to suffer the criticisms that I and so many women have had to.
I’m not perfect. I think that friends or family could probably pin-point a hurtful or careless thing that I have said. We need to voice those things and, when we are wrong, we need to say sorry. We need to grow beyond how some of our parents did it or what they said if it breeds hurt and insecurity.
This post is deep, I know, but so much of what happens around us starts with a careless word.
Let’s spread love and encourage one another. Let’s learn to tame our tongues. Let’s speak positivity over our girls and boys and allow them to live free of something as crippling as a name.