2 young boys have recently committed suicide after enduring anti-gay bullying at school, and the fault lies in a society that teaches hate
The next time someone defends anti-gay bigotry as a religious issue, ask them if they believe in killing children.
That’s the sum total of what hatred can do.
In the case of Jaheem Herrera, an 11-year-old from DeKalb County, Ga., the hatred he experienced in school was too much. He hanged himself rather than continue to suffer the bullying he received because students perceived him as gay.
He was discovered hanging in his room by his 10-year-old sister, who tried in vain to rescue him.
According to a story in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Jaheem was bullied relentlessly, his family said. A friend of the family said they knew the boy was a target, but until his death they didn’t understand the scope.
He would come home many days in a bad mood and when his parents would try to find out why, he would say nothing and retreat to the privacy of his room.
Kids who are bullied often do not want to talk too much about it because they are afraid their parents will see them as weak.
Apparently Jaheem had spoken to the school about the problem, but they did nothing.
He finally gave up.
Bullying has made the news lately from another case in Massachusetts where another 11-year-old boy hanged himself after relentless bullying for his perceived sexual orientation.
What these cases point to is the need to recognize that hatred can kill.
I know lots of people will say, it was the boy’s fault he died. After all, it was suicide.
To them I can only say, until you have experienced being the target of a vile hatred so strong that it makes your every waking hour a nightmare, hold your tongue.
Parents, preachers and politicians are the real villains here.
They are the ones who carefully teach their children to hate anyone different from themselves.
They instill the prejudices well. They forget that their casual remarks often are taken as absolute truth by impressionable children.
Children sitting in a church listening to a preacher lambasting "sodomites" get a clear message.
Children hearing politicians using anti-gay hatred as a talking point get the message.
Children hearing talk radio casually toss off death threats against LGBT people get the message.
The message is clear: It’s OK to tease, taunt, abuse and even assault other kids who you suspect are gay, because the "moral authorities" in your life say it is God’s will.
I fear those "moral authorities" do not understand the fire they are playing with.
As I heard my parents say over and over again, "Little pitchers have big ears." They understood how impressionable kids are.
There is a song in the Rogers & Hammerstein musical "South Pacific" called "You’ve Got To Be Taught."
Perhaps everyone should read the lyrics:
"You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear.
You’ve got to be taught from year to year.
It’s got to be drummed in your dear little ear.
You’ve got to be carefully taught!
"You’ve got to be taught to be afraid
of people whose eyes are oddly made,
and people whose skin is a different shade.
You’ve got to be carefully taught.
"You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,
before you are six or seven or eight,
to hate all the people your relatives hate.
You’ve got be carefully taught!"
Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist. His blog is at http://dungeondiary.blogspot.com.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 24, 2009.