Richard White works to bring awareness to anti-bullying movement
In the classic comic books, super heros always had a day job, fighting crime at night.
Superman was mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent. Batman was millionaire industrialist Bruce Wayne. Spiderman was a photographer for a newspaper.
Richard White’s day job is as a pizza delivery guy. At night, he doesn’t don a cape or put criminals in jail. But he works just as hard as a super hero. The villains he fights are bullies.
How White, 29, came to be a cape-less crusader, spearheading the Carlos “CarrCarr” Vigil Anti-Bullying Movement based out of Valencia County, can be boiled down to a pair of teenagers taking their own lives — his best friend, Josh, and Carlos Vigil.
“My best friend in seventh grade took his life because of bullying,” explains White. “So this is also helping me keep his memory alive because I didn’t do anything to keep him alive. To this day I still think of him and what I could have done to prevent losing him. He was my best friend.”
White, who was born in Texas but moved to Belen with his parents Dennis and Lyn White when he was a year old, said his thoughts of Josh turned to the bigger picture of bullying after attending the funeral service for 17-year-old Carlos Vigil in June.
Vigil took his own life largely due to the pressure from a lifetime of being bullied.
“When I went to he services, I connected with the family spiritually,” White says, emotionally. “I could see the light in their eyes fading away, so I’m here to help get some of that back. We can never bring Carlos back, but we can keep his voice alive. And that’s what the movement and Carlos’ Bill is all about.”
So these days, even after a long day of slinging and delivering pizzas, White will spend another eight to 10 hours a night working what he earnestly calls “The Movement.”
The Movement is the effort to get Vigil’s anti-bullying proposal, which Carlos presented at a youth government gathering in North Carolina just before his suicide, turned into a law —first in New Mexico and eventually nationally.
It’s also the effort to get the issue of bullying of young people into the open, discussed and eventually eradicated.
Carlos Vigil’s grandmother, Dolores Marquez, who works closely with White on the anti-bullying movement as a representative for Vigil’s parents and family, said she knew Carlos’ dreams and ideas had to be continued, despite his death.
Meeting White was pure serendipity.
“When Richard stepped up, it was God-given because I knew there was no way I could do it and his parents couldn’t,” she says. “I was ecstatic that this young man, who we didn’t even know, stepped up and is carrying the ball.”
White says he’s seen his own share of bullying all his life, for many of the same reasons that Carlos said he was picked on. White, who graduated from Belen High in 2002, says has “always been bullied” for being different. He also tried to take his life, in his words, “numerous times.” So seeing another family in pain affected him deeply.
“I’ve always wanted to do something not to just help myself but to help others,” White say. “I’ve been through the same experiences as Carlos with family, friends and even co-worker sometimes.
“Once I went to Carlos’ services and I saw his family and friends say goodbye for the last time … I figured I’d talk to the family and see if we could get something going.”
Since starting the effort in the summer, White and Marquez have held 10 separate events, ranging from anti-bullying rallies in Belen, Los Lunas and Albuquerque, to presentations, such as the talks he and Marquez gave recently at separate statewide anti-bullying and suicide prevention conferences.
“They (the family) are 100 percent behind me,” White said. “They passed along Carlos’ proposal and they said ‘Run with it as far as you can and we’ll be behind you.’ Everything I do is in honor of the family and Carlos. I got through them. Everything gets approved by the family.”
Marquez said working with White has been great for the family — and for White himself.
“I’m seeing this as a therapy for him,” she says. “He’s doing a lot of good for himself and everyone. His self esteem has skyrocketed since he’s found a mission.”
White says shortly before getting involved with the anti-bullying, he was feeling direction-less and even considered moving out of state. But since, he has notices a difference — and so have his family members.
“Since I started, my mom told me ‘I’ve never seen this kind of light in you, the strength and determination you have,’” he says proudly.
And yet White knows the successful events and presentations he and Marquez have had so far are just the beginning.
They are both already working with state legislators to make the anti-bullying proposal that is Carlos’ Bill into Carlos’ Law. That law would set the standards for making sure bullies are punished for their actions as well as getting education to prevent bullies from being created in the first place.
Marquez says White has bigger ideas even beyond that as well.
“Richard wants to go into the schools and do educating about bullying,” she says. “Then he talks about going all the way to Washington.”
White, who is currently designing a website to help get the word out and promote a petition for Carlos’ Bill as well as getting ideas for T-shirts together and planning for future presentations and events, is direct in stating the goals for The Movement.
“We’re hoping to make it as big, even bigger than Carlos wanted,” White says. “I hope we can one day have a million-person march on Bully-Free Day and the Carlos “CarrCarr” Vigil Anti-Bullying Movement to be a big thing. This is just the beginning.”
The beginning of The Movement has not ended bullying as we know it. White, a homosexual male, says he is still bullied for his appearance and mannerisms.
But he says that The Movement exists for young people like him, to let them know they are not alone — and that they have someone who is wiling to help, to listen and to fight and to continue on, like White has done after flirting with death so many times. Now it’s his turn to wear the cape of a super hero.
“I have something to live for, I’m helping people,” he says. “And it’s all voluntary. The family has offered to help, but pretty much everything from The Movement has come out of my pocket. I’ve told them ‘I’m not asking for anything. I want to help you guys.’
“And I’ve never felt this happy to be here on Earth,” he says. “I’m so happy to help the family and to get to know who Carlos was, because he was an amazing person.”