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can't live with 'em, can't survive later without 'em
by reem al-omari (@Reemawi)

Rutgers women's basketball coach C. Vivian Stringer is going to write a book about her life. I'm not surprised that Stringer is on her way to making her mark in the history books as a legend. Her accomplishments in the realm of women's basketball while dealing with personal hardship earns her legend status, and I wouldn't be surprised if she'd already been in talks about a book before Don Imus ever spouted those three deadly words.

But it IS the timing that gets me.

What makes her a legend to me is that the woman got someone's career demolished for being a bully, whose job it is to be a bully. Someone who invented the concept of being a bully for a living. That's something quite legendary.

It's freaking mind-blowing.

If only I could've gotten the kids who used to make fun of me in school kicked out of the entire school system, I'd've written my autobiography by the time I was fourteen if I'd had enough publicity.

And those kids were a hell of a lot meaner and consistent than Don Imus was to Stringer and her team.

Allow me to tell my sordid tale.

My family came to the states when I was ten years old and a sixth grader. I had a hard time dealing with the change, and suffered from major culture shock my entire sixth grade year. I was made fun of for the usual things sixth graders make fun of you for: being the new and different kid. I made it through that year and thought the worst was over, but much like with every sigh of relief I've ever taken, I was wrong.

The Gulf War happened.

It was decided by a bunch of pre-pubescent, braces-ridden, and mountain-banged seventh graders, that I was single-handedly responsible for sending their fathers, brothers, uncles, mothers, sisters, aunts, and whoever else they loved to war. I was called a "sand-digger" and a "rag-head" among other racist, hurtful things that could get someone fired anywhere else.

In music class, our teacher asked us to bring in our favorite song and play it. One smart-ass brought in The Cure's "Killing an Arab", and she let him play it all the way through. In passing, some kids would call me "Kareem Abdul-Jabar". Sometimes they got physical, though I can only remember two incidents involving shoving and knocking me to the floor.

I would go home in tears most days. On the good days, I'd get some comfort from the few friends I had, the school counselor, or spending time in the principal's office watching the bullies get yelled at by the principal.

Those kids terrorized me through my entire puberty about something neither I or they understood. But I made it all the way through high school with those guys, and with time, they lightened up and let me live.

At college, I ran into a few of them on campus. I've run into a few recently at stores and restaurants with their spouses, sometimes children. And it makes me wonder if their children are like they were at school-- No-good bullies.

There is good in what happened to me during my adolescence that has helped me in today's harsh world, post-9/11 and all. I know that when people spout ignorant and racist remarks and blame me for things they know as well as me I'm not responsible for, they're either hurt at best, and stupid bullies at worst. Both are easy to ignore in my opinion, and I think the world would be a happier place if we just let the raving lunatics rave on.

If I ever write a book about my plight in life, I will at least thank those bullies from days of old for making my stomach a hard one. And I suggest Stringer thank Don Imus for putting the icing on the cake that is her legendary life. Or should I say pie?


Reem lives and writes about it. She thinks that's what writers do, anyway. If it's not, then she also has a degree in journalism under her belt, along with the titles of reporter, editor (in chief, even) and, of course, opinion columnist.

more about reem al-omari


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ken mohnkern
4.18.07 @ 11:31p

I suggest Stringer thank Don Imus
Excellent point.

You deserve credit for developing a thick skin in response to the bullying. There are a lot of less positive ways of handling that kind of thing.

Good column.

tracey kelley
4.19.07 @ 11:06p

You know, you point out some nasties that most people refuse to acknowledge.

It's not just one group experiencing discrimination -it's many. I think your other column did a great job of outlining this factor as well. And while some would say it's all white people attacking those not white, it's truly not the case.

I am insanely sick of all this at this point, and left with a complete sense of helplessness because even though I am not one of "those" people that generalize against race, creed, culture...

...I'm starting to really hate and segment those that do. That can't be good.

An example. There is a woman I went to high school and college with, was really good friends with for quite a while, seemingly an all around good person as far as I knew.

We fall out of touch, as it sometimes happens, and I call her up out of the blue to catch up. She lives in Mississippi now, just south of Memphis, where she once lives. I ask her "why did you move?"

Her exact reply was, "There are just too many niggers in Memphis, and we got tired of it. But we're probably going to have to move, because now the niggers are moving in on our street."

I can honestly say it's like someone hit me with a baseball bat, right in the stomach. In the years that I knew her, I did not recall her ever speaking that way or acting that way. But there it was.

Even though we had been really warming up to each other, at that point, I found a reason to get off the phone about five minutes later, and I've never called her or returned her couple follow-up e-mails. I was truly disgusted.

I have some friends that are Sikh, and felt the same bile rise when they told me of their experiences after 9/11, how cruel people were simply because of appearance - the wearing of a turban, specifically. Strangers yelled at them, spit at them.

But oh, these same abusers find assorted invalid reasons to play the victims themselves.

Good on ya, Reem, for having a thick skin.

reem al-omari
4.20.07 @ 12:58a

I think the southern heat destroyed the good cells in your friend's head, Tracey! Just be thankful she's in another state, which makes it a lot easier to avoid her...

russ carr
4.22.07 @ 1:52p

Moving to Mississippi to avoid Blacks is like moving to San Francisco to avoid Asians.

alex b
4.22.07 @ 4:42p

Wow. Reem, anyone who can survive bullying to go on and focus on the positive is truly strong.

Tracey, I've got friends who are Pakistani who told me of similar post 9/11 experiences. Cruelty is awful. And I wouldn't be surprised if the people who perpetuate bullying are the very ones who can't take it- or an ounce of real criticism.

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