When it comes to our children we often focus on lofty ideals and play the blame game.
If a young man doesn’t give up his seat for an elderly woman or a pregnant mom you can almost count down until the whispers start.
“That’s what’s wrong with these kids today.”
I always want to turn around and say, “Well who raised these kids?” Or, “Well why didn’t you offer up your seat?”
Don’t get it twisted. I have the utmost respect for my elders and I believe there should be a certain level of respect given to adults automatically when you are young just because that’s how I was raised. I may have cursed like a sailor with my friends but that is not something any of my teachers knew, because I wouldn’t dare utter a profane word in their presence.
There’s a certain beauty in that old school respect. People often say time is money but there is a great deal to be said about the wisdom time can impart on someone. But it must also be said that all elders are not wise, and all our youth are not the wayward, disrespectful lot they are often made out to be.
Programs geared toward improving the quality of life for young people of color often focus on things like job training/ placement, acquisition of a GED or diploma and other skills and areas that will guarantee minimal employment and/or the bare minimum level of education necessary to acquire said types of employment. While there are incredible programs in existence that aid our youth in going the distance and realizing their full potential, they are not always aware of them and what’s worse, those with the highest need are often in situations that don’t allow them to capitalize on such opportunities.
One area we can all work toward improving as a people, that will also benefit our youth, is intergenerational communication. I think the potential, creativity and technological savvy of our young people coupled with the life experience and poise of our elders will be the key to our advancement as a people.
Like women with natural hair and women with relaxers, college educated Black folks and those of us with GEDs, young mothers out of wedlock and married women, our youth and our elders seem too concerned with differences to capitalize on what makes us the same. A collective mentality is imperative to our advancement regardless of age and we have far more similarities than differences, especially in the eyes of outsiders. Sometimes all the world can see is our skin, hair texture and unique vernacular- yet we insist on carving out all these sub-categories for ourselves instead of coming together to make this world a better place for us than we inherited.
Unity. Regardless of age. Open lines of communication. No judgment. An exchange of ideas back and forth instead of orders yelled by adults at children who don’t plan to listen anyway. This is what we need in our homes, schools, churches and communities at large. You’d be amazed what our kids are capable of when given the opportunity to be original and independent and young people would be surprised to find just how right their elders were about the world and how it works.
Is this wishful thinking?
Are our kids too far gone?
Do our elders look down their noses at young people?
And how can we facilitate meaningful dialogue and ultimately action that involves multiple generations? Chime in!