Pop Culture / The Color Line

A Definite Crisis In The Village

child-crying

Of course I’m stealing that title from Robert M. Franklin’s book Crisis In the Village.  But, he’s quite right:  there is a crisis in the village when two young boys commit suicide due to children taunting them.

Down here in Georgia another young boy by the name of Jaheem Herrera was found hanging in his closet.  He was allegedly pushed to this extreme due to the relentless teasing from classmates and peers.  

I shied away from writing about this topic after the suicide death of Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover in Massachusetts earlier this month because this topic hits so close to home for me.  I personally remember once in fifth grade, right around the age of both of these young boys that I wanted to kill myself to my mother.  I don’t really remember the reaction of my mother, but I do remember sitting in the bathtub that night thinking about drowning myself as my mother placed a direct call to my fifth grade teachers house.  I don’t remember ever feeling suicidal again from teasing past that one moment.

I was never bullied namely because of my size.  In fact I remember one new student in third grade who was definitely on the smaller side walked up to me while we were in the lunch line and said “I heard you were a bully,” I remember looking incredulous (sure I didn’t know what that meant back then, lol) thinking “Hell naw, it’s the rest of y’all that be pickin’ on me!”  Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure most of my troubles would have been solved if I had just kept my mouth shut.  In my own defense, I will say this, my smart-alecked mouth wasn’t on purpose.  I consciously remember being hurt by what kids said to me, and how they treated me, I always felt that my response was more of a defense mechanism and it was viewed by everyone else as an offensive mechanism.  

My mother tells a story of when I was playing litte league baseball with the organization associated with the park across the street from my house that one of the coaches, who was a parent of course, had walked up to her and told her that I needed to stop hitting back the other kids because I was bigger than them, and when I hit, I hit harder as opposed to when they hit me.  My mother’s terse response was “How about a no-hitting rule?”  

And his son, who was seven or eight at the time had a honking problem.  No seriously–the boy used to randomly honk while sitting on the bench in the dugout like he was a goose.

We have a responsibility to our offspring, to the next generation for them to do better.  How in the hell are we going to progress if parents and teachers let these runts get away with all of this craziness?  What makes the cases of these two young boys so tragic is that both of them had “being called gay” at the forefront of their tormenters mouth.  That’s very simple: who’s ever raising these kids have been taught that its okay to tease others and moreover to tease another person for being gay.  

Also, who in the hell knows at eleven whether they’re gay or not?

Granted this aint 1996 when I was eleven, but I don’t think times have changed that much.  Puberty is just starting and boys and girls are just figuring out which way is up and which way is down.  Just the idea of being called gay by fellow eleven year olds brings up a plethora of issues in my mind.  What determining factors did these boys’ peers go through that made it comfortable for them call them gay?  Was it a certain display of femininity?  If it was such, then I’m sure it was because both of these boys’ primary caregivers were their mothers.  This isn’t to say that automatically because the father is out of the house that a boy has a proclivity toward homosexuality or even femininity, but it’s most certainly more understandable that a young boy could have more feminine characteristics because of being around his mother as opposed to both parents.  (I’m sure to get some interesting comments on that one….I could be off on that one and I welcome critiques.)  Although, I think openly gay blogger Rod 2.0 asks the best question “Is this how our community initiates young men into manhood?”

Nevertheless, I know what its like to be teased and bullied.  Some of that is normal, but then when teasing becomes tormenting, its nothing short of torture for the person on the receiving end.  I think it’s absolutely abhorrent and abominable for teachers and various administrators to ignore and DO NOTHING when they see a child visibly being tormented by other students. Damn those who stand by and let each other suffer visibly.  And for teachers for the teachers who make public spectacles of the students who are being teased does nothing more than give the tormenters more fodder to tease with.  Because these are children, I equate it to nothing less than to those standing idly by as they watched their brothers and sister being beaten by racist police officers in the Jim Crow south, or standing idly by as black bodies were hanged and lynched in trees or as if they stood by while they watched Jesus being crucified for crimes he didn’t commit.

We have a crisis in the village.

Keep it uppity and keep it truthfully radical, JLL

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3 thoughts on “A Definite Crisis In The Village

  1. The story of these two boys saddens me deeply and really touches close to home for me…for various reasons, but i digress.

    Bullying is natural in school. I don’t know one person who hasn’t been on the receiving end of jokes at one point in time during their school years. Most of us who have experienced it would most likely say that in someway or another, it has made us stronger or gave us a thicker skin (i know for me it has). I think teachers very may well see it the same way. The horrific thing however is the teachers are not fully realize or understand how these children are internalizing this torment. And that is when we start to cases like these two young boys…I think for most teachers, suicide is probably far from their mind, especially AT THE AGE OF 11!!! Some of these kids do not know how to handle or take this type of bullying and they sometimes don’t know who or where to turn.

    Especially with something so touchy as homosexuality. You’d be surprised at how perceptive these young kids are regarding society’s (sometimes) hateful attitudes toward homosexuality…For a young child that may be confused about their sexuality ( AND TRUST ME…not all, many young children KNOW from a young age that they’re “different”) it can be embarrasing going to a parent, a friend or teacher about something like that….

    I place blame on the teacher AND the parents for not being proactive in intervening in these kid’s lives and providing enough support to them so they wouldn’t be hanging themselves at the age of 11.

  2. Thank you for your comments. I agree with what you have said completely. These kids are in school the WHOLE day and it seems to me that if this is where the bullying is taking place then the teachers at the school HAD to be aware if something was amiss. I ask my kids how their day was each and every day but do I necessarily get the whole 411? No. It’s in this delicate age of ten, eleven, and twelve that kids start to pull away. My heart goes out to all of those parents. I also hope that all the children involved in this begin to understand that standing by and doing nothing is the root cause of these children’s death.

  3. The real problem is that the word is being used by children without them even knowing the damage they inflict on their “victim”. They are forced to take it and most often the “bullies” tend to fear being called one thus use the word on others and so on. This is a type of “Homophobic hot potato” have dire results on those who are unable to defend themselves. Often the word is used by countless children as early as elementary school to pick on those who cannot defend themselves by not only boys, but girls as well.It is a very cruel situation, but is even considered to be fun by them some of them, it can result in suicide of the victim or psychological problems in the future. What is even more disturbing is that no remorse is felt, no guilt, not even the stoppage of the word. They continue to use it without knowing it.

    It is a powerful word that can destroy basically all the aspects of the child’s life whether they are at home or school, it is always on their mind. They will not have as much fun and you can forget about them getting along with many peers because of the isolation and ridicule. That is why they are likely to commit suicide.

    I think the only way to counter this horrible verbal abuse and behavior is by producing media that counter acts it and discourage the younger generation to use this word without knowing the consequences. All the effects and total outcome (suicide) should be shown on TV. That is the best solution in my opinion.

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