“You Think You’re Grown” : What We Can Do to Fix Ageism in the Black Community

Teresa Younger

I am a Black kid. Other Black kids that I’ve spoke with, wonder about the world we’re poised to inherit. We worry about police brutality, racial profiling and unequal opportunity in general. With good reason, because we see laws  that have moved society forward have been repealed before our eyes. So we don’t want to be shut out of the conversation.

Social change is a good way for us to visualize their bright futures because we’re living the legacy of historical Black figures. Do stereotypes and criminalization of Black kids, and censorship of Black history create obstacles for us?

If we continue to perpetuate the censorship of Black history,  how are Black kids going to know the truth? How are we going to live the legacies of the many people who have shaped the lives of Black people? Most importantly, if Black kids have these mindsets that censor our Blackness, how will we know how to cope with racial profiling?

De-criminalization  of Black Youth

Are you familiar with the phrase “We speak kids into existence”? Loosely calling Black kids “thugs”, “bad girls” and calling them negative names teaches Black kids, especially Black girls that they are only capable of savagery which can unintentionally, or intentionally put them at risk.

Because of the way Black kids are over-policed, they can act out negatively against injustices. Oftentimes, when this happens,  they’re criminalized with status crimes, that adults can’t even be fined for. One way to prevent that is to help Black kids utilize the power to purposefully and positively make change their community.

An alternative to over-policing Black kids, would to recognize how bold, creative, and revolutionary we really are. These injustices affect Black kids the most, which makes us really passionate about these things.

Being over-policed won’t show our true colors, unless people give us a platform to start conversations on these topics. I have been lucky enough to be given a platform, by adults in an environment where I can have conversations with other Black kids.

Black kids are individuals, not just a group of people.

The idea that learning is somehow “odd” is instilled into the lives of Black children. Deeply-rooted into culture is the idea that Black kids aren’t innovative which we internalize these ideas of being a book worm being deemed “weird”. Believe me, coming from a place for extended family believes in Black kids remaining “seen and not heard”, I’ve been shut down, in the name of “you haven’t lived long enough” to have lived the Black experience. Yet, everyday, I live as a Black person in America.

At the same time, people make assumptions that Black kids “don’t care” about the community.  Let’s back up on the narrative that Black kids aren’t interested in learning. Give us an outlet to be innovative, so our activism can have a positive impact on our community.

We’re young, and our voices matter.

Help kids of color to be socially conscious by encouraging us to be a voice in the community we’re inheriting. Let us participate in your conversations about the world we live in, and be open to our new thoughts and ideas. When it comes to moving the needle forward, many Black children are very passionate about the world around them.

It’s time to pass the wheel to the next generation and let us drive, and sometimes we may need your help. We will be the next leaders of the next few generations. Black kids are the present and the future.

Written by Stephanie Younger, a 15-year-old student activist, organizer and writer who advocates for Womanism, diversity in S.T.E.A.M, the abolition of youth prisons and gun violence prevention


One thought on ““You Think You’re Grown” : What We Can Do to Fix Ageism in the Black Community

  1. I too feel the pressure young black children face as someone who worked as a teacher aide. We need more positive thinking for the youth, the classrooms should be the first line of defense in making children feel free to express themselves.

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