him and on him and around him and through him. One day he awakened and told himself he couldn’t take it anymore. Now his life can be our light and his family can be a symbol against bullying.
What is it about us human beings that allows us to batter each other? Does it make us feel better? Do we grow when others shrink? Do we flourish because they shrivel? While we pay lots of attention to young people and their bullying, shouldn’t we also pay attention to the adults among us, those who think that we gain because others lose, we rise because others fall, we use our tongues in a way to diminish, not flatter? As I watched the pain of the Walker family on “Extreme Home Makeover,” I realized that perhaps few meant harm, but many contributed to the utter tragedy that family had to manage.
We are all indebted to ABC and the “Extreme Makeover” team for deciding to help this family. They remind us that pain and passion reverberate. I saw lots of ads following the special, and into the next few days, of young people talking about the effects of bullying. Carl Walker-Hoover’s suicide puts a face on bullying and reminds us that there is a possibility of an anti-bullying movement. The ads tell the story, but can the people tell more?
Here’s the bottom line. We have all been bullied, one way or another, with a friend or colleague with a vicious, ugly mouth. And because we have all been bullied, we have all been bullies in our space. Humanity requires us to understand that the behavior we model is behavior that young people replicate. It requires us to understand that everyone can’t meet a bully, face to face, eye to eye, and resist the nonsense that can be called hazing.
For whatever reason, Carl Walker-Hoover could not stand up to his bullies. He had enough. He shared how much of enough he had with his suicide. Who knows what he might have been – an author, a scientist, a leader. When he died he was a young Black man whose life spread out before him, a life he chose to end because he could not endure bullying. How many more lives will we lose? How can we learn to value every life, and to kick bullying to the curb?
I am so proud that Carl’s sister, Dominique, is a Bennett student. We hope to use her knowledge to help us grapple with the many ways we choose to hurt ourselves. She is a survivor of this bullying nonsense, as so many are. She is one of the leaders we have been waiting for!
Julianne Malveaux is president of Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, N.C.