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Commentary :: Education : Human Rights : Race
They Had It All Planned Out
13 Oct 2012
In life all of us try dealing with the chaos that comes our way. We want to make sense of it and perhaps exert a measure of control over those aspects we feel the need to, to keep tucking in those corners. Yet, life always has a way of showing us there are some things that are simply beyond our control. This is true whether we're an easy going person, or the sort of individual that feels the need to control everything. In truth, with life there's a surprise around every corner, and the reality that not everything is capable of being controlled.
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For people that go through discrimination this can be true in many ways. At first, there is the realization something out of your own control has happened and/or is happening. In time, however, that can change, and even turn around. That's something the target of discriminatory harassment just can't see at first when you first start to go through it.

The severity of the harassment of course contributes to it. Most harassment isn't actually severe harassment in some senses. By that I mean it's the kind of thing you can deal with easily by just ignoring it. That's something we all have to do at some point, or by doing something, or more often saying something, that quickly addresses things and resolves them then and there, before they snowball.

When the other kind, the more serious kind, happens, you know something is wrong immediately. You get the definite sense that it is not normal, and if you do not notice the red flags, you should. Sooner or later you realize the kitchen has become really hot, hotter than it is otherwise, hotter than any human should have to endure. At that point, you have certain choices and most people opt to simply move on. And really, if you can that's probably the best move.

I don't say that lightly and am not talking about the sort of thing that can be fixed with a few words, the appropriate gesture or even reporting it to the proper channels when it happens institutionally - as anything else can quickly turn into you becoming the bad guy really fast and ending up on the losing end. There is that burning desire to do things with honor as you go forward, or society dictates that is the right way as we grow up, but when real harassment happens, the script can quickly dissolve, going from honor to on 'nuh the next one before all concerned know what hit them, leaving heads whirling and scalps scratched.

Though leaving is the option most often taken, there are times it cannot happen. I know because it's happened to me, and if I left, it would have meant thousands in student loans, the forfeiture of a scholarship without which I may not have been able to attend college and huge credit problems for years to come for nothing that was my doing. There was no leaving for me, and though things had somehow gotten out of my control, the only realistic solution for me, given my circumstances, was to fight to not just survive, or to simply sort out the karma, but to graduate and get that diploma.

So, I took notes, and started to watch the people doing the harassing. I watched what they did, and quickly discovered that the strategies and tactics employed over and over were always the same or variants of the same ones. It was guaranteed, sooner or later those doing the harassing would repeat them. In fact, as I watched them pass by me, after a while it was like, "I remember this one, it's the one where...," so on and so forth.

Once that happened, it was a matter of deploying the strategies and tactics I developed to survive, and always being amenable to adaptations. Little did I know, not only would I survive, but what seemed impossible, would soon turn out to be something I could manage. It made things no less immoral, illegal and abusive or whatever adjective you may add, but I found ways to counter the heat. My harassers harassed me daily and it never let up. There were professors involved (it was while I was attending the University of Connecticut) along with other students. The harassment involved racial epithets, lying to me about deadlines or what was required for certain projects, handing out part of the list of requirements for a project to one of the students involved in the harassment exclusively for them to distribute, to ensure I would not know all of what was required for a project and even physical assault.

This was not the 'let it roll off your back' kind of stuff, but I had to make it. There was no other choice. Complaining for me in that situation seemed like a last resort, as it was the word of professors and multiple students against mine alone.

However, in studying their moves I found weak spots. I saw that often the methods they employed were borne out of a text book mentality, and that, though it seemed like utter chaos and that all hell had broken loose in my direction, as time went on I saw that they too had to operate within the confines of certain rules. See, they didn't want to get caught or penalized. It wasn't anarchy, it was organized confusion.

The students risked getting thrown out of the degree program we were in, or possibly kicked out of school altogether. They knew there was always the chance the professors would throw one or more of them under the bus. I mean, that was the whole reason for handing out the assignment requirements to numerous people.

For the professors and others organizing the harassment, it was a way to spread out the blame and put people at risk enough that they would fight to keep things quiet.

The professors risked getting kicked out of school and their professional reputations if they got outted or caught.

So I learned the rules by reading the student manual and calling a couple of law firms, the NAACP legal hotline and the attorney general's office for advice. Being as it was a state school, and perhaps the most important thing in the entire state, I knew better than to mention the name to the attorney general's office when I called them, even when I recognized I was speaking with someone other than the attorney general (heads up).

By learning the rules and formulating my counter strategies off of theirs, I developed survival tactics that kept them guessing, startled, confused and eventually insecure - no matter how they tried to look confident and force display practiced smiles, you could see when they had been softened and even hit. I had a few advantages, and one was my ability to develop strategies centering around rules afforded to the target of the harassment. It actually allowed me options they didn't have as it should any target of harassment.

For me to lay out a list of hard and fast rules, other than what I've discussed, would not be useful to another target of harassment and could even hurt another individual enduring it. The reason being, the strategies I developed were endemic to the individuals responsible for harassing me, the degree program I was in, my school, the town the school was located in, the state the school was located in and so much more.

To apply counter strategies you need to do the observation regarding your situation, take the notes, study the rule books available and make the calls yourself - note, most lawyers have a free initial consultation. Whether it is because of your religion, ethnicity, culture, nationality, gender, lifestyle, your race or whatever else, survival and being the one that prevails is possible.

I did it and walked away with the diploma, graduated right on time and got to see their faces as I did. I prevailed, I overcame and I won. Furthermore, I ended up taking back some of that control, squirting oil under their feet and causing them to scramble and feel an increase in temperature, as though life had suddenly gone awry and all hell had broken loose on them. They had it all planned out, but for the target of harassment, sometimes salvation lies in the details of the madness all around them. Just sort it out and be disciplined and methodical. Without it being your intention, you may even end up slipping them doses of their own medicine. The tables could turn before they have time to realize what just happened. Whatever your case, if you're going through it yourself, stay focused and good luck!

To read about my inspiration for this article go to
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This work is in the public domain
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