To Dr. Rochford’s son: “I promise ‘ranga’ is not a dirty word.”

Video by Mamamia

Dear Archie,

This week, your father shared a big, fat ‘stop it I don’t like it’ on Instagram to anyone who thinks it’s okay to bully someone for being even a little bit different.

It received attention all over Australia, with thousands of people expressing their unwavering support – all for you.

But I know that doesn’t mean much to you at the moment. Because today, all that matters is there are people at school who, for a reason you don’t understand, have an issue with the colour of your hair.

This is my son Archie. He is 10. And I wouldn’t normally share something like this, but I HAVE to..I can’t hold this in anymore. He is the most beautiful boy you could ever meet. He cares about everyone,… genuinely…. with every bit of his heart. I have tried to teach him the importance of treating others the way you want to be treated, it’s a simple idea, and I could never have expected him to care so much about those words. If you fall, he will pick you up..if you’re sad, he will try to make you smile..if you cry, he will hold your hand. And as I write this, I cry. You can see my beautiful boy has red hair…. beautiful red hair….He didn’t choose his hair…. he can’t change his hair….and he should not have too. The first time he told me he was being bullied because of his hair I encouraged him to ‘be strong buddy, you’re amazing’ ,and they are just going for the ‘easy target’….But when he comes to me and says he’s being called a ‘fucking ranga’ TARGETED for something he cannot change, I am broken…completely broken. He is brave and strong and a far better person than most, and he tells me ‘ don’t worry Dad, I’m fine’ . But I’m not ..not at all….I’m sick of the hypocrisy & intolerance. I. AM.DONE. To ALL who think it’s ‘funny’ to discriminate and bully someone for something they CANNOT change….you are no better than a racist or a homophobe. You throw it out there in an attempt to seem witty or clever, you are NOT. You are as shallow and ignorant and PATHETIC as all the other narrow-minded bigots that inhabit our beautiful planet. So take a really long hard look at yourself..because if you perpetuate victimisation in your house, or your workplace or on a stage or the radio or television….YOU are the problem…YOU! The boys that are picking on my son, weren’t born to be so mean, they have learnt from you. And to all the gangly kids, the kids with big ears, the ones born in different countries, or with different coloured skin, a different way of speaking, or different ANYTHING that you can’t change..I am here for you..100 percent. I will fight for you, just as I will fight for Archie….because ALL of this has to end. #stop #bullying

A post shared by Dr Andrew Rochford (@drandrewrochford) on

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Which is weird, right? Because for as long as you can remember, adults have always told you how beautiful your red hair is. How people would spend a fortune to get your exact shade.

Right now you might be feeling a bit alone. Like a sore thumb that’s sticking out for all the wrong reasons.

The stats don’t lie, Archie. It’s true that you are very unique. Only one or two percent of the world’s population fall somewhere on the red haired colour spectrum.

Now, one or two percent might not seem like a lot, but in reality that puts people like you and I in a group of around 140 million people — all of whom identify as, or have been called, a ‘Ranga’.

Yep, I said it. The ‘R’ word.

I know people have been calling you that lately. And it’s upsetting to your Dad, your family, even people you’ve never met.

andrew rochford's son
As you can see, Ranga has always looked good on me. (Image: Supplied)

But most importantly, it's making you feel like less of a regular 10-year-old compared to all the other 10-year-olds running around at lunchtime.

It might not seem like it right now, but ranga is not a dirty word. I know this to be true because I've been where you are, and I've been called all the things too.

The first time I realised having red hair was a bit different was when I was six.

Slurping from a water fountain during a rigorous pursuit of cops and robbers, I was suddenly taken upon by a small group of grade sevens. They circled me on their push bikes chanting, "Amy Orange, Amy Orange".

LISTEN: A high schooler’s book collates letters from famous Australians to their teenage selves.

I didn't know who they were or how I'd ended up on their radar, but it made me feel sad in a way a six-year-old shouldn't have to.

In the few years that followed, I made up a number of excuses to explain myself should my "orange" hair pique the interest of my peers.

"A tin of red paint fell on my head and it never washed out."

"I'm adopted... from a place that's really far away."

"I ate a really hot chilli when I was a baby and have been this way ever since."

A post shared by Amy Clark (@blueystwocents) on

Seems kind of silly, doesn't it? That a person should have to justify to someone else why they are the way they are?

And it was silly, because rather than making me appear 'normal' to anyone that cared, all it did was reaffirm my own belief that having red hair is weird, which it's not.

I was in high school when Summer Heights High came out. For millennials like me, this was when the term 'Ranga' became a thing.

Although Jonah used the word as a way to pick on poor Ben, in my life it had the opposite effect.

Suddenly, people I had never spoken to were noticing me. I was a part of this pop culture phenomenon.

My friends affectionately called me 'Ranga Bear', and I even put 'Rang Rang' on the back of my Year 12 jumper!

(Image: ABC)

On the flip side, there are a bunch of names I have been called that have made me feel - and to be honest, sometimes still make me feel - the same way Ranga feels for you.

That's the clincher when we talk about what's 'allowed' to hurt another person's feelings: if it hurts you and makes you feel small, then it's not OK.

Unfortunately, I can't make these kids stop. The sad reality is that society has always, and will always arm people (not just kids, adults too) with the ammunition to ridicule others.

But what I can do is tell you this:

Your red hair, something which, as your father put it, you did not ask for and that you can't control, is actually part of what makes you awesome.

And I have a feeling that one day, you will really grow to love it, and not be able to imagine yourself looking any other way.

I come from a long line of awesome red heads. (Image: Supplied)

I've never minded that I look different from everyone else, but as I've gotton older my hair has become a conversation starter, an ice breaker, something to be complimented.

Despite how I felt in the past, I would never change the way I look now because it's such a positive part of my identity, the thing that sets me apart from everyone else.

And I'm not the only person who thinks this way.

In 2017, we're so spoiled for choice when it comes to talented, respected and adored 'rangas' that it's not even a big deal.

The person who was in charge of the whole country, our first female Prime Minister, Julia Gillard? She's a ranga.

Three time premiership-winning Geelong footy player, Cameron Ling is a ranga, as is the Western Bulldog's Adam Cooney, who won a Brownlow Medal for being that good.

Ed Sheeran is also a ranga. That is all. (Post continues after gallery.)

All over the world, thousands of rangas march proudly through the streets, celebrating how special we are.

There are Instagram accounts dedicated to how beautiful we are. We even get a whole day that encourages people to kiss and adore us.

So if you only take away one thing from this letter, I hope that it's the reassurance that you, Archie, are not defined by the colour of your hair, even though it is bloody brilliant, as are you.

Yes, you are a human being that happens to have red hair. But it's the 'human being' that's the important part of that statement, not the 'red'.

If you are being bullied and need someone to talk to, you are encouraged to contact BeyondBlue on 1300 22 4636. Children can also find helps at Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800.

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