Saturday, April 11, 2009

Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover, the star that will never have the chance to shine

April 17 is the 13th annual National Day of Silence by taking some form of a vow of silence to bring attention to anti-LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) bullying and harassment at school. Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover would be celebrating his 12th birthday on that same day, if he were alive to see it.

This past Monday (April 6) the junior at New Leadership Charter School in Springfield, Massachusetts hung himself after enduring constant taunting and bullying at the hands of schoolmates. And exactly what was the motivation behind their teasing? Well apparently these children concluded/suspected that young Joseph was gay and that homosexuality is justification for bullying, teasing, and harassment.

It is not.

Someone's sexual orientation, homosexual, heterosexual, bisexual, or what have you, is not justification for harassment and it certainly does not make it okay to bully them to the point where they think that death is the only way out. Usually the first thing someone would say is that death is never the answer and there must have been another way. He may have been getting bullied at school but surely there must have been something else he could have done to resolve the problem than taking his own life. Bear in mind this did not happen overnight.

The bullying had been going on for sometime. From hearing remarks like "you act gay" and "are you gay?" to being told by one girl at school "I'm going to beat you up and I'm going to kill you." he was constantly bombarded with homophobic bigotry. Carl's mother, Sirdeander Walker, had brought up the homophobic treatment of her son to his school and her concerns fell on mostly deaf ears. Feeling that there was no other way to avoid the barrage of taunts, teasing, and harassment Carl concluded that his only escape was to take his own life.

What happened to 44-year old Sirdeaner walker is any parent’s worst nightmare. On Monday evening, she found her 11-year old son, Carl, dead in his bedroom. He had committed suicide by hanging himself with an extension cord.

In an act of despair and loneliness a young athlete's future career was ended. In an act pain and fear a community and many of its organizations lost one of its active participants. In an act of shame and self loathing a church lost one of its youngest practitioners. In an act caused by bigotry and hatred a family was robbed of one of their own.

There will be vigils, memorials, and remembrances for Carl but I have to wonder where was all of that attention when he was getting picked on at school. Why wasn't anyone helping protecting him from those bullies? Where was all the concern and outrage when that little girl threatened to beat him up and kill him? Where where was the community when he was alone and afraid? Who was there for him when he was thinking that taking his own life was the answer to his troubles?

Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover was not the first target of homophobic harassment at school (A 2005 report from the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network or GLSEN) nor is he the first person to take this way out and sadly I suspect he will not be the last. My question is how many more will there be and what is going to be done to get that number to zero someday?



elementary_watson said...

Just for the record: That he was the victim of homophobic bullying doesn't mean that he was homosexual, and it wasn't his sexuality that turned him into a target of homophobic bullying, but (probably) some behaviours of his which were considered "gay".

(Note: This should not be understood as victim blaming; uncommon behaviours are no justification for bullying, as little as sexual orientations are. I myself were victim of homophobic bullying at age 8 to 10, about, without being homosexual (especially at that young an age))

Danny said...

You are correct watson. I did not make it clear that his sexual orientation was not known and that his actions were (probably) interpreted as "gay".

I understand that this is not victim blaming but instead you want to keep the facts straight and I appreciate that. Unlike other activists I know the difference.

lormarie said...

Hopefully, this case will wake school admins up to take bullying more seriously. As a teacher, I can sadly say that many do not.