I want to tell you a story, and it starts with a child named Louis aged 14. This child was born in Australia but unfortunately his parents were of Greek origin and had immigrated to Australia to find a better life.
I say ‘unfortunately’ because at that time, most of the people in Australia were of English descent and a large number of these Australians could not tolerate migrants. It didn’t matter if you were of Greek origin or Italian origin, or whether you were Asian; you were either a ‘wog’ or a ‘spick’ or a ‘gook’ and that was that. When words are spoken aggressively and accompanied with physical assaults, more often than not by a group of racists, it can really hurt.
During year 8 and year 9 Louis excelled in academics. He was top of his year in several subjects, and Louis’ whole family were filled with joy when Louis was selected by teachers to be Year Captain and to represent the school. It was clear that the teachers were not racist; they were academics, broad-minded and did not prejudice Louis for evolving from a different background.
Many of Louis’ classmates didn’t see it that way. They didn’t see why a wog should be better than they at school. It didn’t matter if that Louis spent most of his spare time studying; what truly only mattered was that Louis was a wog and he looked different to them. The same was true of Louis’ friend Norman. His parents came from Malaysia, he was a gook, and that was that.
The thing about being called a wog whilst being physically beaten by several guys, each of whom is bigger than you, is that it really hurts! I suppose we can draw an analogy with that prisoner who finds himself in gaol, is surrounded by thugs, and severely beaten or worse. Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide.
The only difference, however, was that Louis did not commit a crime. Louis never went to gaol, but he imagined that gaol was similar to what he was experiencing. Too scared to dob anyone in because he would be branded a dog, and, unfortunately Australian culture has zero tolerance for that – you can’t dob in a mate – right?
Louis’ parents decided that the only solution to the problem was to take Louis out of that school. It was a public school with little discipline, so perhaps sending Louis to a private school was the answer. Louis’ parents could not afford it, but they worked even harder and would do anything legal to further their child’s education.
Louis remembers his Head Master crying when his mother broke the news; Louis had to leave the school as it was the only way to resolve this issue of bullying…
On his first day at the new private school Louis witnessed several beat downs.. As ‘luck’ would have it, each of the boys who were beaten were of Greek Origin. At that time, the school was mixed with about 90% ‘true Australians’, and the rest were mostly Greek or Chinese immigrants.
Louis recalls one of the forwards from the rugby union team yelling: ‘It’s your turn next you smelly wog’. He told the truth. Louis was next and was severely beaten.
That was Louis’ first day in his new private school. The situation had become worse, as the guys at the new school were bigger his last one. These racists had access to gym facilities, a pool, several ovals, army cadet training, and they certainly did not have to put up with the sight of Louis.
With nothing to lose, Louis commenced martial arts training. It was Karate at first, because that was the closest dojo to Louis’ home. Karate would be closely followed by Boxing, western style and then Chinese Style, simply because Louis’ older cousin trained at that particular gym. Louis would finally learn Tae Kwon Do, only because the Grand Master of the local dojo generously offered to train Louis for free, impressed with the boy’s determination to learn.
For several years, Louis would duck, weave and avoid as many encounters as he could with the racist boys. Apart from an occasional slap on the back of the head and his lunch being regularly taken, Louis generally avoided trouble.
By the time Louis was in Year 12 he was not yet a black belt. His confidence had grown, however, and mentally Louis was better equipped to deal with his problems.
And then it happened.
Louis was sitting outside the library one day when he witnessed the worst racial abuses that he had seen to date. It was not just a beat down. Several of the racist boys, (who were now in the First Grade Rugby Union Team), gathered around an overweight Australian student of Greek origin, and started to pinch his nipples and hurl abuse at him. They were some the worst racist slangs that Louis had ever heard. The victim was sobbing, but that seemed to spur them on.
It was time to act. Louis could turn the other cheek for himself, but he was no longer prepared to let it happen to someone else.
It was time to stand up and claim the respect that was his due.
‘Leave him alone’ yelled Louis.
He was ignored.
‘Hey leave him alone’ Louis yelled, this time even louder.
‘Stay out of it, he is a …. wog!’ yelled one of the boys.
‘I am a wog too,’ replied Louis, ‘try that on me’.
Two of the boys immediately lunged at Louis, as fast as they could, in a deliberate attempt to hurt him.
Everything and everyone seemed to be moving in slow motion to Louis. He saw everything so clearly; the right coming from the side towards his face, the poor attempt at a tackle.
It only took Louis one kick to the face to down one of the assailants. No one was really familiar with roundhouse kicks then, and so Louis quickly knocked out the other one as well. Whilst the first of the assailants lay unconscious on the ground a crowd quickly gathered. Louis prayed that the assailant would recover which (thank God) he did.
When the crowd dispersed only Louis and the victim remained.
Louis said to that boy, words to the effect of: ‘You want everyone calling you a fat wog for ever? You have to train, you have to get confident. Start with one minute every day, then next week make it two minutes each day, then 5, then 10. Walk, run, jog, that’s the way to lose weight. And don’t eat too much, and don’t eat late!’
A huge commotion followed. Both the victim and Louis were interrogated, separately and together.
The school would not tolerate such violent behaviour. There was no place for violence in our Great Private School. Louis was accused of being a trouble-maker and although he was never suspended, the House Master sure put Louis to the test. The House Master called Louis a ‘wog’ directly to his face on several occasions, to see if Louis would react. Louis ignored the baiting. In training his body, Louis had also trained his mind to ignore petty provocations.
Years later, Louis saw the victim in the city. The victim said to him: ‘You were a bully in school. Do you remember what you said to me that day? You forced me to lose weight. I was depressed and was always thinking about losing weight. I was scared of you and you forced me to start running. And it made me into a better person. Thank you.’
It’s strange how some things go!
On a side note, I’m wondering how many of you read this article, some 25 years later, and thought ‘WOG!?’.
I wonder how the Chinese kids are doing.
The author wishes to remain ANONYMOUS