Over the past week, I have spoken to many on and offline about the Trayvon Martin case and one thought came up that I have heard few people seriously talk about; of course it’s easy to focus on the obvious factors that Florida has silly laws (Stand Your Ground is insane…sorry) and the clear racism that played a role in this case. But as a buddy and fellow mom pointed out to me, this is also about the sad fact that teenagers in our culture seem to have little value.
For all the talk of bettering the world for our kids, it seems we as a whole tend not to see teenagers and don’t value them. I see this a great deal in my work and sometimes in dealing with professional colleagues it’s clear that we don’t know the place of teens in our society. Are they kids? Or are they mini adults that need to be molded in our exact image? No one seems to know.
Once upon a time in a world far away, there was no official teenage-hood, you had kids and then at a certain age kids were considered adults. Then somewhere along the line came the recognition that teens were also kids yet we have never truly valued them and respected them in my opinion. It’s easy to recognize that in just the lack of public spaces we allocate for teens, that we don’t see them. In the childhood years, we tend to have public spaces and a plethora of programs for kids, acknowledging that kids need their own spaces. Yet let them become teenagers and all of sudden there are no teen spaces.
Instead we complain when we see them in public spaces, over the past decades we have seen inane rules restricting their access to public spaces such as malls, we limit their access to movies and the list the goes on. Then we wonder why teens appear angry and surly. You would be angry too, if your very presence seemed to annoy people especially if you were in a group with your friends.
While teenage black males are a prime target to be viewed with suspicious eyes thanks to the racism that we try to say doesn’t exist, the fact is teenagers in general are viewed with suspicion unless they are superstars…straight A’s, involved in sports, etc. Whenever any crime happens and involves teenagers we are quick to assert whether or not said teenager was a good kid or not. I often joke if you are a teenager and something bad happens, if you are “good” society sees you as a kid, if you are “bad” well we really try to push you into adult status as a way to deal with the conflicts we have when it comes to teenagers.
I recently blogged about mothering older kids and heard from a few folks in the trenches but by and large most had no words of wisdom, either because they haven’t reached that stage with their own kids or simply don’t know how you mother teenagers and young adults.
In the case of Travyon, he was clearly one of the “good” ones which is one of many reasons his case is finally getting the attention that it deserved from day one. Yet I find myself wondering if Trayvon had been prone to trouble as teens are sometimes prone to do (trust me I was that teenager…I got into lots of trouble) would that have colored people’s opinions and thus led to less public outcry aside from the Black community?
Teens are people too and we need to see them and value their unique being and place in our society. Just like adults and kids they need respect too!