Bullying in T&T: Jokes that Hurt

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If a friend calls another friend a “fag”, does that make it funny? ‘Cause they’re friends nah, and is ah joke!

Now if the friend decides to rile up, people will say, “Boy, how you could be emotional so? Wait nah! Yuh crying? Buh like you is really a fag boy? Alyuh, look dis boy upset oui!”

This kind of jeering happens every day. Consider some of the scenarios. The girl in primary school who used to pee down herself, and was labelled “Pee-pee Girl”, until she escaped to secondary school. The boy who stuttered in ‘lessons’, and other boys would make stuttering jokes, while the entire class would crack up, before the teacher entered.

Whatever happened to them?

Even the fella we now label a spranga; maybe he was that guy who was harassed at school, and instead of being the poster boy for the rejected introvert who finds the strength within himself to see past the taunts and jeers, and study religiously instead of feeling rejected when nobody wanted him to play on their small goal side, he became the alcoholic, who came to school tight, and smoked weed on recess behind the toilets. He doesn’t even have to be a spranga. He could be the guy who graduated, and got a job, but what society sees is a youth who didn’t live up “to his full potential”, and, sadly, no one really knows why.

If you still see them around, do you feel a twinge of guilt that you too used to jeer and point fingers? If we knew it wasn’t so nice to do, why did we do it? Our own shame or feelings of inadequacy mutated into a critical voice of another, pouncing on someone who could make us feel a little bit better about ourselves.


“The motive of a bully is to always feel empowered.”

My cousins gang up on one another, and think it’s a game to see who can hurl the most hurtful innuendos. They think it’s hilarious. It can fill an entire BBM chat, them going back and forth at who’s “a fag”, who’s “gay”, who used to wet the bed or who was last to stop sleeping with their parents. Degrading talk. Isn’t that a signature of a bully? Someone who wants another to feel embarrassed?

The motive of a bully is to always feel empowered. Most bullies are victims themselves. The facts and statistics are out there, but it has never been a dire of a situation to address as it is now. “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”… lies. A schoolyard rhyme to act as a figurative shield against harsh words, but we all know how feelings of shame and embarrassment haunt us for a lifetime.

Recent news reports of gay pre-teens and teens committing suicide in the US because of bullying brought the issue to prominence, and a Facebook video right here in T&T of a bigger boy slapping up a smaller boy highlights that it’s happening, in our schools – probably to your own child or one you know. Would you know if it was? How will ‘small man’ endure the embarrassment now that his bullying was made national as Facebook fodder? Will this experience leave a long-term effect on him? Did he once think about killing himself?

The fellas will chuckle here, suck their teeth and say, “Girl, dem thing eh going to happen here. Nobody eh stupid enough to kill deyself for ole talk”.

Thing is, some people give up on themselves because of being verbally or physically bullied. How many youths can handle the ‘talk’, the  ‘picong’ every day at school, and feel that it’s too trivial (or for the guys, too girlish) to go cry to their parents?


“Could there be a deeper reason our kids are walking around with weapons in their book bag?”

How many of our young alcoholics grew up under similar pressure? How many of our young people hurt themselves or attempt to take their own lives? How many of the bullied feel empowered by holding a weapon in their hands, making another person feel small for a change? Ask yourself, are some of these young criminals who dabble in petty theft and violence the villains or the victims? How does a person become so on edge that they can stab another youth in an argument? Could there be a deeper reason our kids are walking around with weapons in their book bag?

To some, this piece might have taken a melodramatic turn, but the reality of the broken hearts and damaged emotions of the bullied is all too real and all too tragic.

You see bullying isn’t just what you see at the movies. Bullied kids aren’t as easy to identify like the gothic kid in American movies who dress in all black and eyeliner. In a machismo society like ours, where showing emotions equates showing weakness, and could even be misjudged as ‘gayness’, ‘throwing talk’ is the most deadly and ready ammo, blowing up confidence with repeatedly cruel words. A bully can pound you with his fists, but the most effective bully knows words inflict damage that can’t be easily seen.

The worst part of all of this, even in context to the US, is we can stop it, but we don’t. Trinbagonians have always been and still are so connected to all that is going on North America that I hope this wave of self-destructiveness plaguing their youth doesn’t manifest itself on our shores. I hope that we still feel shock and a sense of morose when we see one schoolboy inflicting violence on another (where were the teachers?). Respect for another isn’t a privilege; it shouldn’t be a choice… respect is a right.  Let us guard our own tongues against harsh and cruel words. Let us teach our youth respect for others.  Let us teach them that hurting another (physically or verbally) is anything but funny.


Check out the rest of this week’s issue (1/11/10, Issue 30):


Quilin Achat

Quilin Achat is an avid lover of reading, so it's no surprise that she runs a small, unconventional bookstore called The Fire is Lit, in San Fernando. Check out the Fire is Lit at http://facebook.com/theFireisLit.


  1. wizzy

    November 1, 2010 at 12:59 pm

    Bullying here goes by the name of ‘fatique’ People joke about it and say it’s just our culture but it’s no joke.

  2. Anika

    November 24, 2010 at 3:36 am

    Great article. I agree with wizzy, in Trinidad bullying is considered ‘fatigue’, and if you can’t handle it, well something is wrong with you, because that is our culture. But it is so damaging. I was called big forehead by family members and classmates, or one of my Aunts would mock my deep alto voice, my stepfather would make jokes about my size, I can go on and on. I am in my late thirties and in some ways I still have a low self esteem. I am glad you addressed this topic, because this has been going on for many generations.

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