I recently discovered that a friend’s son committed suicide, he was 14 years-old and African American/Dominican. Every time I think of this child committing suicide it sends chills down my spine and pain to my heart. Can you ever see the signs of sadness that would cause a child to hang himself in his house? Historically, this has not been what we, as African-American’s do to deal with our problems.
I am forever haunted by the thoughts that might have run across this child’s mind to want to end his life? The bigger question that I ponder is “what runs across any child’s mind” to want to end their life; what are they dealing with and why can’t they tell us, their parents, the very one’s charged with protecting them and ensuring that they are strong enough to combat whatever life hands them. I for one, have always taken for granted that we would just carry on forever, suffer forever and live our course of life for 80 plus years (forever!). Never in my wildest days would I think, I would be writing a story about one of our own children committing suicide.
Upon reflection of the life of this young man, I remember that he was a little more advanced and understood a little more about life than most kids his age. He played football and loved eating the last cookie on the cookie sheet, he was just a child. He loved soccer and his mom and grandmother spoke of him with such love, he was just a child. You could see the sparkle of happiness in the family when you asked how he was doing, he was just a child. His mother moved him to the right neighborhoods and schools and did everything right.
I broached this very question with my own son. At this moment my son became the parent and schooled me on what kids deal with today that are far more emotionally and psychologically traumatic than anything that I dealt with as a child. He told me that kids are using the internet and responding to others that dare them to do dangerous things this can result in injuries and sometimes death.
My son then reminded me of the new form of bullying called cyber-bullying and how it affects kids today. Cyber bullying is the use of the internet and related technologies to harm other people, in a deliberate, repeated and hostile manner. I was very casually informed that suicide is very common-place among kids today.
Historically, African Americans have “carried” and handled very well the weight of slavery, the depression, civil rights struggle, the drug crisis of the 80’s and now the recession of the new millennium. It has always been accepted as apart of our race to struggle and fight against the odds. In spite of our spiritual beliefs and faith that everything and everybody is going to be alright and, yet our children are the victims of our own technological successes.
I met an older distinguished gentleman from the South, who came from the back doors of Mississippi. He came from a town so tiny, there where no sidewalks, street lights and with only one church. He was taught that the choices you make better be the right ones. Most southern moms would say “stuff” happens just pray and think of a way to land on you feet when it comes your way. The only problem with this advice is you are still unaware of how to handle the problems.
As you venture into this older Southern gentleman’s office, to the left you will find a photo taken in 1902 of two African Americans. The photo shows two men one with shoes and the other without. They were lynched in town and left dangling near the electrical poles. As I stared at the two men, I immediately noticed how they were holding each others hands. Their hands were in a praying stance as if they were waiting for god to reprieve them from the suffering they had encountered. Someone’s child, son and/or father were lynched based on bigotry from the South of the Dixie borderline 109 years ago. My guess is it reminds the Southern Gentleman, that no matter how hard times are now nothing compares to the struggles they had some 109 years ago. Ironically, we as African Americans are committing suicide more often now than 109 years ago, due to the pressure of trying to impress one another. Church goers frequently state that we are the only race that they know of that practices self hatred.
In spite of the odds, the older, wise Southern Gentleman succeeded beyond levels of expectation. He owns his own company, shoes and has the ability to eat and bake sweet potato pie on any given Sunday. He succeeded quietly within his own terms yet within the law. He has made his mama proud. I’m certain it wasn’t easy. Success for the majority of us isn’t easy, but we must set goals and believe in each other.
Are the lessons of the older generation’s era the lessons that I need to teach my son, or is this past era gone? Do we, as parents, teachers, business leader, politicians, etc., need to teach our children different lessons or do the lessons of yester-year need to be re-enforced? Your interpretation of this article will answer these questions in your own hearts and households.