Give us all a reason to love and care about everyone…not just some – this article hit home- I share it with all of my readers – pass it along- especially those of us with children of the same age as these two young little boys- their lives had barely been lived…
April 24, 2009, 3:04 pm
Two Little Boys
By Charles M. Blow
On April 6, just before dinner, Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover, a Massachusetts boy who had endured relentless homophobic taunts at school, wrapped an extension cord around his tiny neck and hanged himself. He was only 11 years old. His mother had to cut him down.
On April 16, just after school, Jaheem Herrera, a Georgia boy who had also endured relentless homophobic taunts at school, wrapped a fabric belt around his tiny neck and hanged himself as well. He too was only 11 years old. His 10-year-old sister found him.
Two beaming little boys, lost. To intolerance? Too tragic.
The sad ends to their short lives shine a harsh light on the insidious scourge of the homophobic bullying of children.
Children can’t see their budding lives through the long lens of wisdom - the wisdom that benefits from years passed, hurdles overcome, strength summoned, resilience realized, selves discovered and accepted, hearts broken but mended and love experienced in the fullest, truest majesty that the word deserves. For them, the weight of ridicule and ostracism can feel crushing and without the possibility of reprieve. And, in that dark and lonely place, desperate and confused, they can make horrible decisions that can’t be undone.
For as much progress that’s been made on the front of acceptance and tolerance of all people, regardless of our differences, enough hatred remains–tucked in the crags and spread about the surface–to force Carl and Jaheem into the abyss.
We should commit ourselves to ensuring that their deaths are not in vain, that their lives are the last page in this sorry chapter of our development as a people. And, the first step in that direction is to fully understand the scope of the problem.
In short, homophobic bullying is pervasive. It disproportionately affects black and Hispanic kids. A new study suggests an apparent link between bullying and suicide. To wit, black and Hispanic adults who are gay reported higher “serious suicide attempts” than their white counterparts, most of those attempts taking place when they were young.
Let’s look at the data:
According to a 2005 report entitled “From Teasing to Torment: School Climate in America” that was commissioned by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, students are more likely to be subjected to homophobic bullying than bullying for most other reasons …
We, as a society, should be ashamed. The bodies of these children lay at our feet. The toxic intolerance of homophobic adults has spilled over into the minds of pre-sexual children, placing undue pressure on the frailest of shoulders. This pressure is particularly acute among young boys who are forced to conform to a perilously narrow concept of masculinity. Or else. My colleague Judith Warner put it best in an online column that she posted after Carl’s death:
“The message to the most vulnerable, the victims of today’s poisonous boy culture, is being heard loud and clear: to be something other than the narrowest, stupidest sort of guy’s guy, is to be unworthy of even being alive.”
Well, no more. All people are worthy just the way they are, the way God and nature made them, the way they see themselves through the truest eye of the soul. We must teach every child, nay every person, that the greatest measure of our own humanity is the degree of human dignity we afford those from whom we are different. A smile, a kind word, a handshake, a hug, understanding and compassion – the simplest acts of goodness can bridge the widest chasms.
These little boys deserved our love. Instead, through the vessels of our children, they were shown our scorn. We failed.
Carl and Jaheem, I will never forget you. I am the father of 11 year-old twins. I will give them extra hugs and kisses tonight in memory of you. I will teach them to be even more tolerant, in memory of you. I will make sure that they know that I am always there if they need an ear or a shoulder, in memory of you. I will let them know, when the waters get choppy, that the storm will always pass, in memory of you. And, I will make sure that they know in no uncertain terms that whomever they grow up to be, I will love them always and forever. This too I will do in memory of you.
We will soldier on in your stead. You rest in ours.
(It should be noted that to my knowledge neither child had self-identified as gay or bisexual at the time of their death, but now it matters not. Whomever they would have been is forever lost to the grave.)
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