“He probably didn’t want to say, ‘mom, someone is bullying or picking on me’…he just didn’t know how to tell me.” These are the words of Cornelia Reynolds, after finding out that her 8-year-old son, Gabriel Taye, died by suicide in the city of Cincinnati, Ohio. Gabriel’s family and news reporters believe his death was the result of being bullied at school by his peers. Leading up to Gabriel’s passing, he was bullied day in and day out. An incident occurred where he was knocked unconscious by a classmate just two days before ending his life. An ABC News article covering this tragedy noted that bullying was routine behavior at Gabriel’s elementary school. His story is one that is known all too well, one that begs the question of why boys need social support in Black communities to feel enabled to speak about traumatic issues they face.
Stopbullying.gov reports there is a relationship between bullying and suicide, noting that depression and history of trauma are contributing factors to suicide. The risk of such factors, particularly suicide, can worsen if support from parents and schools does not occur. LeVasseur and colleagues (2013) conducted a study to find the association between bulling and suicide attempts among New York City youth and found a high association between them. Moreover, their findings showed that Black students had a higher prevalence of verbal and physical bullying than Hispanic students.
The research, coupled with the incident of Gabriel Taye, highlight the need for Black boys to have social support in general. As his mom stated, he simply may not have known how to go about expressing how he felt inside about what he was going through. Traditionally, Black males have indirectly been taught from an early age that expressing emotion is embarrassing or emasculating. All in all, this speaks to boys, specifically Black boys, needing to feel comfortable expressing themselves, which will require support from parents and schools in learning to properly address instances of bullying. In order for boys like Gabriel to speak up when they are being bullied, we must erase the stigma that seeking support is a sign of weakness and attack the problem head-on.
- LeVasseur, M.T., Kelvin, E.A., & Grosskopf, N.A.,(2013). Intersecting identities and the association between bullying and suicide attempt among New York city youths: Results from the 2009 New York city youth risk behavior survey. American Journal of Public Health, 103(6), 1082-1089.
- Stelloh, Time. “Family of Ohio Boy Who Committed Suicide after Bully Attack Sues School.” NBCNews.com, NBCUniversal News Group, 7 Aug. 2017, 9:18, www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/family-ohio-boy-who-committed-suicide-after-bully-attack-sues-n790486.
- Yeldell, K. (2014, March 11). Black More Likely to Bully and Be Bullied than Other Groups. Retrieved from https://www.blackpressusa.com/black-more-likely-to-bully-and-be-bullied-than-other-groups/
- “The Roles Kids Play in Bullying.” StopBullying.gov, Department of Health and Human Services, www.stopbullying.gov/what-is-bullying/roles-kids-play/index.html.