Posts Tagged 'teenagers'

Who’s afraid of teenagers?

Violent youth are all over the news. U.S. media has used the spotlight on blaming London riots on teenagers to highlight the present “danger” of youth flash mobs in our country. What the Today Show and other outlets don’t mention in their fearmongering is that youth flash mobs have been going on for a while. Philadelphia in particular has been dealing with them in recent years. Politicians and police officers call the participants violent and have criminalized the act of teenagers hanging out in groups.

Well over a year ago, then-high school seniors Zakia Royster and Dan Jones made excellent criticisms of those responses  on this radio show. Royster and Jones were leaders in the Philadelphia Student Union in 2010. Their response to youth flash mobs with incidents of violence? 1. Not all youth are violent, and we cannot characterize them that way. 2. We must create spaces for youth to congregate and become positive community leaders.

Their points have some similarities to the insights of Jason Paul Grant in this post about London, “Attack of the Hoodies.” To answer some of the “why?” about the riots, Grant shares about the bleak life and future he faced growing up in South London and how none of those conditions have changed. He then reports the cognitive dissonance he feels now that has “joined the other half,” who are only miles away from the riots, yet are so removed from the conditions causing them that he says they might as well be in Australia trying to understand.

Making the point that there are huge sectors of the youth population (“the hoodies”) that we (adults/society) have ignored, Grant recalls an experience working at a center for kids who’d been expelled from school:

On my first day I wanted to know what they wanted to be when they grew up. The main answer was a drug dealer. I was shocked…It was how they saw their adults making money.

Similarly, I have been disturbed by my boyfriend telling me that he wasn’t the only person in his rural PA high school who didn’t expect to live to age 25. But what horrifies me (more than a group of teenagers on the street) is that ADULTS actually told those kids those things.

Aside from personalized death sentences, we’re sending all kids that message of their lack of worth, when we divest from education (massive school budget cuts, anyone?) and fail to create institutions that support and develop youth. Instead of fearing youth, adult decisionmakers—like Philadelphia Mayor Nutter who has imposed a 9 p.m. weekend curfew on teenagers—should start caring about them.

Young Adults and Young Parents

After two months back in the U.S., I’ve discovered that I was wrong in my expectation that my life would slow down a bit compared with India or Palestine. Most of the people I’ve told about my former expectation have replied, “Well, do you know how to not be busy?” Fair point. I’ve always loved to swim, so if the water’s deep enough I usually dive in.

Among the million things I’m up to currently, I’m trying to write for new outlets. Today Canonball posted my review of Boys Don’t Cry, a novel written from the perspective of a teenage father. Canonball is a great blog on feminism and literature started by some of my friends from college. They recently began a regular Young Adult fiction feature. Reading YA novels is one of my favorite ways to relax, so I’m delighted to read these posts and happy to contribute one, too.

Read “Boys Don’t Cry: Fatherhood, Masculinity, and Malorie Blackman” on Canonball blog.

Teenage Tour Guides

I enjoy visiting historical sites, including Civil War battlefields in the States. Yesterday I ventured to an East Jerusalem neighborhood where a Palestinian man had been shot dead by Israeli police in the afternoon to find out what had happened. I didn’t go to be voyeuristic, but as a journalist the line often feels uncomfortably close. Some 14-year-old boys who witnessed the shooting showed me and another journalist friend the remaining blood spots, bullet holes, and shattered glass on the street. A man asked us if we were tourists. I replied in shock, “I don’t look at this stuff for fun!” since the teenagers had already shown us cell phone photos of the victim. The boys’ eagerness to be our guides indicated the normalization of violence in their lives. The same normalization of the values of war takes place at Gettysburg and Antietam, yet the neutralizing mask of history makes it less startling.



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