Another 11 year old boy committed suicide over homophobic slurs at his school, in Atlanta GA. Jaheem Herrera and his family moved to the mainland from the U.S Virgin Islands only one year ago. His grade school nightmare in Dekalb County began almost immediately after. Like Carl Walker Hoover, one day Jaheem could no longer stand the taunts of “gay” and “f-gg-t” and the mocking of his accent that dogged his school day. On Thursday of last week, he came home and hung himself in his room.
Jaheem was found by his 1o year old sister Yerralis. His step-father found her screaming “Get him down! Get him Down!” and prevented his youngest sister, 7 years old, from coming into the room.
Also like Carl, Jaheem’s school has a policy against both oppression-based bullying and violence in the schools. Their policy includes a 3 strikes your out system for real time bullying and a zero tolerance for cyber-bullying. Yet, he too was the target of daily harassment at his middle school.
Like Carl’s mom, Jaheem’s mother alerted the school to the problem and asked them to intervene. Nothing seemed to change as her son got more and more depressed. She has already hired a lawyer to ensure the next mother who asks gets action.
One of Jaheem’s friends told his mother that:
Jaheem asked if anyone would miss him if he wasn’t here. [His friend] told [Jaheem] ‘He was his friend and he would miss him.’ (AJC)
Sadly the voices of homophobic children and individual school administrators who did not effectively stop the violence were louder than that of Jaheem’s friend. The anti-gay messages that dot youtube, mark national level political campaigns, and pour out of the radios in almost every town in this nation, and the parents who repeat it at the dinner table, helped prime these children to attack a defenseless 11 year old boy. He was not their peer, he was their target and ultimately their victim.
Again, I am at a loss for what to say about these young boys, many of them of color, who may or may not have been gay or genderqueer but who paid the price for a homophobic society that says “choose what you want” but leave “my country,” “my family,” and “my schools” alone. The conservatives’ imagined ownership of everyone’s country, everyone’s families, and everyone’s schools, are killing everyone’s children. The people who sit silently on the sidelines and do nothing are helping them to do it.
Enough is enough.
source for this article: AJC
image: AJC/Curtis Compton