October is National
Anti-Bullying Awareness Month. With one incident of bullying every seven
minutes, sadly, bullying is the most frequent form of violence school-aged
Their stories are unimaginably painful.
In the 2011 documentary
film, Bully, film director, Lee Hirsch, also the victim of bullying,
gives us a window into the lives of five school-aged children - from across
ethnic, cultural and geographic boundaries - who confront bullying on a daily
basis. Their stories are unimaginably painful.
Their stories are just the
tip of the proverbial iceberg. The statistics on bullying is staggering.
According to BullyingStatistics.org,
approximately 42 percent of school-aged children have been bullied while online
with 35 percent being the victim of threats. Approximately 58 percent of have
reported that something mean has been said about them or to them online.
It is estimated that
160,000 children miss school everyday because of the fear of assault or intimidation
by other students.
Statistics also reveal 77
percent of students have been the victim of some type of bullying with 46
percent of males and 26 percent of females being the victims of physical
fights. Homophobic bullying targets our lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and
queer students, or those perceived to be LGBTQ.
Case in point: Carl Joseph
L. Walker of Springfield spoke at a press conference in Massachusetts in 2009,
calling for effective and comprehensive anti-bullying legislation to be passed
in response to the tragic loss of her 11-year-old-son, Carl, I had hoped I
would neither read nor hear ever again about another child or young adult
committing suicide as the result of homophobic bullying. Again, and sadly, it
was just the tip. “Bullicide” was on its way to
becoming a national epidemic. Just in the month of September 2010, nine teen
suicides were tied to sexual orientation or gender expression. This highlighted
the disproportionate bullying of our LGBTQ kids (or those perceived to be).
One of the suicides that
September was that of 18-year-old Rutgers
Tyler Clementi. Clementi
jumped to his death from the George
after finding out that his college roommate and another classmate used a webcam
to secretly broadcast his sexual encounters with another male, highlighting the
dangers of “cyberbullying” - teasing, harassing, or
intimidating with pictures or words distributed online or via text message.
Clementi’s suicide, along with the other eight, went viral
and they saturated the media. Those of us in the African American community,
however, were not surprised that Joseph Jefferson’s suicide, just two months
later that November, went unnoticed. 26-year-old African American gay youth
activist, Joseph Jefferson, took his own life; he worked with HIV/AIDS
charities and was an assistant to promoters of Black LGBTQ events in NYC.
“I could not bear the
burden of living as a gay man of color in a world grown cold and hateful towards
those of us who live and love differently than the so-called ‘social
mainstream,’” Jefferson posted on his Facebook page
the day he killed himself.
The harm from bullying and the toll it takes is far greater than people realize.
African American LGBTQ
residing in the black communities are frequently the subjects of bullying,
which often times leads to their death by suicide or gang violence. For
example, in 2006, Michael Sandy was killed after being hit by a car while he
was trying to escape attackers in Brooklyn on Plumb Beach.
Sandy and a man arranged to meet after their exchange in an online gay chat
room. When Sandy
arrived, he was confronted by four men who robbed him and chased him onto the
was then hit by an oncoming vehicle and died from brain injuries.
Ms. Walker found her son,
Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover, hanging by an extension cord on the second floor of
their home after he endured endless anti-gay and homophobic taunts by
schoolmates, although Carl never identified as gay.
And with homophobia being
what it is in the African American community, I imagined Carl, an
African-American, must have experienced an endless cycle of bullying.
The harm from bullying and
the toll it takes - not only on our kids but also the society at large - is far
greater than people realize. At the press conference, Ms. Walker highlighted
the immortal words of U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren, ‘It is doubtful that any child may reasonably be expected to
succeed in life if he is denied the opportunity of an education.’ Bias,
bullying, and harassment currently stand between too many youth and this
Walker is right. Anti-gay bullying truncates a child’s
academic ability to excel. And the cost, while immediately about the child, is
an equally greater cost to us as a society down the road. Anti-gay bullying is
not to be endured or tolerated. It must be stopped by us all - and at all
levels, from our legislators to our educators.
In 2010, Governor Patrick
signed a strong anti-bullying legislation cementing the state’s commitment to
changing the culture of bullying in schools, and Gay and Lesbian Advocates and
Defenders (GLAD) was involved in the drafting and legislative process from
beginning to end. Victims of bullying endure a host of emotional problems. They
become anxious, insecure, and suffer low self-esteem because the targeting of
them has made them feel isolated, helpless, and vulnerable. Those feelings are
just merely some of what we can surmise Carl and Tyler experienced.
unfortunately, will experience those same feelings during this school year.
Board member and Columnist, the Rev. Irene Monroe, is a religion columnist,
theologian, and public speaker. She is the Coordinator of the
African-American Roundtable of the Center for Lesbian
and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry (CLGS) at the Pacific School of
Religion. A native of Brooklyn, Rev. Monroe is a
graduate from Wellesley College and Union Theological Seminary at Columbia
University, and served as a pastor at an African-American church before coming
to Harvard Divinity School for her doctorate as a Ford Fellow. She was recently
named to MSNBC’s list of 10
Black Women You Should Know. Reverend Monroe is the author of Let Your Light Shine Like a Rainbow Always: Meditations on
Bible Prayers for Not’So’Everyday Moments. As an African-American
feminist theologian, she speaks for a sector of society that is frequently
invisible. Her website is irenemonroe.com. Click here to contact the Rev.