Hangin' w/ Mr. Cooper

Jaheem Herrera’s Classmates Called Him ‘Gay’ Too Many Times

Who knows if Anderson Cooper was tormented for being a homo when he was a boy. As Gloria Vanderbilt’s son, the Coop lived inside a bubble of status and privilege, but it’d be silly to think mom’s world didn’t frown upon The Gheys. They were okay to have as friends — but as your own son? Nevermind all that, because Andy is once again dedicating airtime to a tormented little boy who took his own life. Masika Bermudez, the mother of 11-year-old Jaheem Herrera, who hung himself last week after enduring anti-gay torment at school. At Jaheem’s memorial service, Masika told friends and family to make sure their children aren’t “afraid to talk to your mother.”

What we appreciate most about AC360‘s interview with Masika: She identifies exactly what was done to harass her son. Above all else, it was calling him “gay.” The U.S. Virgin Islands native was targeted by other students because he looked different and spoke with an accent. This, in a school where students signed “anti-bullying” pledges.

Masika says she complained to school officials about the bullying, but nothing was done. Other parents repeat a similar story. Research into kids who are bullied says most believe there’s nothing adults can do about it. Masika, who removed her other children from school and will return to St. Croix, says she lost her son because he gave up when his complaints did nothing to protect him.

Watch the second part of this segment with Barbara Coloroso, author of The Bully, The Bullied, and the Bystander, who is one of few who seem to have a handle on this dire situation — and what can be done about it not just at the institutional level, but on an individual basis.

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  • Wayne

    It’s true, the majority of bullying is sexual in nature, specifically anti-gay. When parents and teachers tolerate homophobia, or are themselves openly homophobic, they give credence to the kids who bully and demean gay (or perceived to be gay)children. America must treat homophobes just as harshly as racists. Bigotry is Bigotry. Hatred is Hatred.

  • Paul from Faces InEquality

    Enough already! When I read this story it opened the floodgate of memory from my own bullied days. No kid should have to endure this. No parent should have to be unaware of a school’s response. No community should tolerate this behavior.

    Jaheem did nothing wrong and everything right: telling his parents, telling his teachers, telling the school’s leaders. Sadly, from the sounds of things this only made matters worse.

    At the core of this issue is a group of kids that have learned through society and likely their parents that it’s really cruel to call someone “gay” – and that it’s OK to be so cruel. Intolerance is what is the heart of this beast and nothing will change until everyone – but especially parents – start recognizing the harm they do in teaching it.

    Thank you, Qeerty, for continuing the dialogue on this issue. Your ability to weave the story into real language is appreciated.


  • Tyler

    Would you please change the title of the jump from the front page? “Hangin W/Mr. Cooper” Are you fucking kidding me? How insensitive can you be? I’m not some guy who gets his panties ina wad over a little political (or any other type) of incorectness but, come on. That’s in such poor taste. I’m a huge fan of this blog but that’s really disappointing. Please change it.

  • Neishun

    Bullying is a form of torture, a mental one that leaves scars for life. It must be stopped at the schools. We have immensely talented children who are very bright yet are afraid to go to school and are afraid to participate in school. Let us all do our own part to stop bullying. If you see someone being teased or bullied, intervene and call for it to stop. Or, contact officials depending on the nature. The reason why this poor young man took his life was because the people who were supposed to care (his teachers and etc) ignored what was going on.

  • Heather

    All too often we (as a society) look at bullying and ignore it. More than likely because we all have been a victim of a bully (and WOMEN are as bad as MEN). Well every kid that bullied him or called him a name is responsible for his death (even if he did commit suicide) because they created an environment that he believed was UNLIVABLE. And if someone did nothing about it and knew about it then they are just as responsible as the bullies. Part of the problem is that we don’t want to deal with this. We don’t want to admit that it is going on in our society much less our schools. But it does and it is rampant.

    We teach our children to FOLLOW and not lead. And when you deal with a bully you need to LEAD. And leading is not easy nor is popular, because often you go against the group (now that group is held together by pack nature and fear), but it is still a group.

    This is not natural selection. I don’t want a bully to be the dominant force in my society, do you. This sends a message to our children. Is it the message that you want them get. That we won’t or can’t protect them or that we won’t let them protect themselves.

    Then the issues regarding the name calling…don’t get me started. Those kids claiming that he was gay, GUESS that they were in the closet themselves and trying to deflect attention away from their own insecurities.

    I suppose that if we can’t deal with school bullies, how can we deal with terrorists and pirates. Chew on that one, America.

    I challenge my country. But only to improve it. This behavior is BENEATH its citizens. We are better than those who create a place where HATRED exists. This is where I CHALLENGE OUR YOUTH TO DO BETTER. Since they are the true prize. To not wallow in past mistakes (which are natural and normal in the course of life) that we (their parents and fore bearers) have made. To think AHEAD and realize that their actions will have peripheral consequences that will impact our future. And to realize that life is not an easy thing, but it is a wondrous one. And that when you make your life work here, then you have truly earned it because you will have to work for it. No matter who you are.

  • rogue dandelion

    @Tyler: Wow- i just noticed that-that is horrible. come now queerty!

    another note, is anderson the only one covering these stories? we do need to give him credit.

  • rogue dandelion

    with regards to this topic of bullying- it was the entire atmosphere- my mentality throughout primary and secondary school was to keep my head down and get through it. I always hung out with girls/mixed groups, never just with boys- except in PE, where we had to. That was always the worst.

  • Jess

    I think there is too much assumption on the word “gay” with this story. He asked his friend if they wanted to see a movie and their reply was “no it’s gay”…. The word GAY has been used as “stupid” or “lame” since I was a kid and people still continue to use it like that despite all the homosexuals that like to cry homophobia over it.

    I could have killed myself over the bullying I went through in elementary school. And the gay rumors didn’t start until Highschool.

    What an awful mother. Her son is sulking that bad on the couch, refuses to eat, slams a door and she forces him to go to school instead of talking to him more abut why he said he didn’t want to go. Then the kid comes home, is upset and showing ANGER about what happened that day, she she basically punishes him by sending him up to his room. She says it was to “cool down”. He needed to get that out and she just dismissed him and probably made the kid feel MORE rejected and MORE alone. Mother makes you go to school, then you have an awful day and come home and get yelled at for being mad about your awful day.. I can imagine how that kid felt.

  • JEAN

    Perfectly stated!!!

  • amanda

    wow..unbelievable..he was only 11.

    “dang thats sad, no lie”

  • Fitz

    It might help is bastards like “the coop” would come out.

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