Life goes through cycles of turbulence and relative peace. Obviously its never a Utopia but one generation’s experience can vary drastically from the next. For example my family grew up in Wilkinsburg. I had a pretty normal childhood but my mother told me a story about when she was little and a white classmate told her that she couldn’t come play because her parents did not allow Black people in their house. Going even back further my grandfather spoke of a time when the police pulled him over as a young adult and told him, a black man, to never drive through Wilkinsburg and he should go around to get where he needed to be. Same street in the same town but 3 completely different experiences. There is an entire generation of us that had a pretty mundane childhood. I know that could be debatable but work with me. No world wars, no civil rights movement, no Cuban missile crisis, no Vietnam. Yes we had the cold war and The Watts Riots but looking at the overall existence of my generation, compared to others we did ok.
Now things a changed. My children are on the front lines of a revolution. Topics that had been reduced to a whisper are breaking news. And yes, these things have always been there, but now there is no where to hide from them. Aggravating the awareness of long hushed social issues are new problems such as school violence, deep cuts to education and a widening wealth gap. Kids know things. They have a keen perception of the world around us and no matter how hard we try, we can never shield them from that. So where does this leave us? Am I just writing another doom and gloom piece? No, I’m here to celebrate today’s youth. They are thriving and taking a commanding lead in change.
Gone are the days when the youth were told to stay in a child’s place. Some are refusing to stay silent and I am raising a few in my own home with an astute level of consciousness they developed all on their own. My 14 year old has a righteous group of friends willing to take on injustice in the halls of their school. Debating gun violence, challenging gender norms, and asserting inter-sectional feminist ideals by just living unapologetically. When institutionalized education begins to lead students astray they are speaking up and questioning the textbooks and invoking much needed conversations in the classrooms. It isn’t always easy but that is how they have chose to navigate these times. There are tears and frustrations when other kids challenge their assertiveness but they don’t back down and amazingly fight harder. They live on purpose and they embrace tough topics without fear.
Our children are walking out of school in protest to save lives, inventing and innovating to save the planet, loving each other and giving hope to others around them. My daughters are going to the Pride Youth Prom to support LGBTQIA peers who are uncomfortable going to a prom at their own school. Another daughter proudly wears a t-shirt encouraging HIV testing. Young men are pushing preconceived masculinity aside and expressing themselves with bold fashions. Black kids are proudly wearing their crowns of coily hair the way God intended. Being Autistic is inspiring and not weird. They are taping injustice on the phones, challenging lawmakers and corporate ideals. One of my daughters is Puerto Rican and she literally watched in real time people like her force the resignation of a bigot. They are marching, making theirs voices heard and fighting for their future. The most beautiful part is the whole time they are still children enjoying life and unknowingly fueling a revolution.
I writing all this to say as parents sometimes we need to stop and look to our children for guidance. Being seen and not heard is not always a hard truth when it comes to raising children. Parents don’t always understand the fears and concerns of children, even though we want to. It’s time to listen, understand and support our youth. A lot of lawmakers, educators and parents are trying to protect kids from things that they identify with and accept instead of the real threats against them. We cannot make the world the better for them if we aren’t listening to their voices.