To My Sixth Grade Classmate, I'm Sorry I Stood By While You Were Bullied
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To My Sixth Grade Classmate, I'm Sorry I Stood By While You Were Bullied

Fighting injustice starts in my own life.

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To My Sixth Grade Classmate, I'm Sorry I Stood By While You Were Bullied
Gratisography / Pexels

Dear W,

We were both new kids at school that year. Do you remember walking into a class of 10 sixth graders who’d known each other since preschool? They all sat behind us since we were given seats in the first row, right in front of the teacher’s desk.

I’m not sure why they picked you instead of me. I don’t know why it was you they made fun of, excluded, rejected. But I do know why I did nothing. I wanted to be liked. I thought if I stood up for you then they would despise me. That shouldn’t have mattered — treating you with respect was more important than all that. But I did nothing.

Then one day I did worse than nothing. Remember those weird locker rooms, where the wall dividing the boys room from the girls room didn’t reach the ceiling, so you could talk freely with people on the other side? One afternoon all the girls began loudly explaining to “each other” all the reasons they thought you were lame, knowing you could hear every word.

And then M walked up to me and asked, “What about you, Evangeline, what do you think about W?” It was silent in the locker room. I inwardly panicked, wondering how to get out of the situation. I could disappoint these girls, or I could throw you under the bus. I honestly didn’t want to do either. “Well, do you think he’s cool or not?” I had to decide, and I decided you weren’t worth it.

“No. I don’t think he’s cool.” Those were my words. Immediately, triumphant chatter filled the locker rooms again, listing off all your many faults. I had fed the fire — what could have happened if I’d stood up to them? At least there would have been two of us. You wouldn’t have been alone facing the cruelty of humanity manifesting itself that day through that sixth-grade class.

Recently I've been upset at gross global injustices like human trafficking and war and genocide. But at its center, injustice is one person deciding that someone else is not worth being treated well. This is the same decision I made about you…

I am sorry. What I did, both standing by and then siding against you, was wrong and awful.

You left our school half-way through the year. I pray that wherever you went next, you found kind people and close friends. I pray that you forgot about those five months, and never think of them now. If you do remember, please forgive me.

— Evangeline

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