We have laid the worst foundation possible for our children. Every day you hear about misguided youth, children with no futures, children with no goals or direction and children who are self destructive and filled with so much anger. But not once did we stop and ask why. Not once did we stop and ask what their motivation is or why are they angry, who are they angry with and why they have no direction. Not once did we stop and take responsbilty. Not once did it occur to us that they are the way they are because of us.
I used to work in the public school system specifically with emotional and behavioral dissability children. Most of the children in the program I worked with were black or children of color just like that of the prison industrial complex. The demographics of this program matched that of the prison industrial complex for very much the same reasons as well. It's always the poor, impoverished children who are disproportionately targeted. These children who grow up and function with less resources and opportunities are trapped in a system where most of their authority figures don't understand them, and only know of their situations through reading or word of mouth. These authority figures never have to actually experience what these students go through outside of school on a daily basis.
It makes it hard for some of these teachers to understand one of the first lessons you learn on the job, which is that many of them are very angry. And it can make it easy to adhere to the second thing they teach you which is don't take anything the children say or do to you personal. It’s easy for many of those teachers to adhere to these tenements because it's very easy to not get personal when you don't see or understand the very students you are charged to work with. It's a job that can be very stressful for all. But for some, not for the reasons of personal attachment or empathy. It's a job where you need very thick skin and a lot of patience.
Most of the time you're on the job, all you're trying to do is support the other staff and the students in the room to make sure some sort of education or curriculum is being diseminated in between all the behavioral redirections that take place. What you don't do alot of is questioning why the child is in the program in the first place. Why do the students display the behavior or emotional issues that land them in such a program. And the reason these children are the way they are or behave the way they do is because we’ve failed them. What we've failed to realize is that we are in a war for the minds of our children on a daily basis. Especially black children, who are subject to messages of inferiority and self destruction in some of our classrooms, in our over arching society, and through the media at a non-stop rate.
White children are being damaged as well because they are recieving the inverse. They are receiving false images and messages of their superiority. This causes them to grow up and become racist and or willingly bask in their white privilege without stopping to ask why is this not ok and what can I do to stop it. Yes white parents, those of you who think you aren't racist because you don't teach your children hateful tendencies are also apart of the issue. If you aren't teaching your children to help dismantle a system that they benefit from directly while also oppressing others then you are complicit in the very system that you say you don't approve of. Simply watching a problem and shaking your head doesn't solve the problem. Trying to actively dismantle the issue is what solves it.
Many of us black folks are to blame as well. Many of us adults are so caught up in our struggle or conditioned by our oppressors that all we do is take one of two approaches. The first being to pitty ourselves and willingly succumb to the oppression, not fight back and mimmick all the negative stereotypes about ourselves that are put out in the world. Or we do fight back, and engage the struggle and we do so with a sort of narrow tunnel vision hoping that we will change it some day. All to often though, we don't notice the collateral damage. During either one of these approaches, we forget our children. We forget the daily battle for their spirits and minds. We so often leave them ill equipped to handle these battles because we are too self centered in our approach to the struggle.
We seldom give them the tools to see that the images they see on tv, the images that limit our youth as only being capable of singing, dancing, scoring points, or going to jail are all innaccurate. We seldom step in and hold the media accountable for setting the narrative with excuses or justification for white men who commit crimes. We seldom step in and hold the media accountable when they constantly dig up dirt from the past of black victims no matter how benign the offense, to smear the victims image. And the media will do all of this in the first five minutes of a news cast or first ten lines of a news article. We forget to acknowledge the media as a strong mechanism in the system that we know exists to help oppress us while at the same time we gleefully send our children off to the mercy of any television or article that appears because we lack the conviction to tell them that tv's too are biased. What they read on the internet can also be biased.
We allow our schools systems to teach them watered down versions of black history about the same three or four prominent black figures without telling them the truth about the rest of their culture. That their culture is responsible for so much more. We allow schools to get away with not teaching children that America would not even exist as it as, much less consider itself a super power if not for the labor and contributions of black men and women outside of entertainment. We teach them through reality tv and some music, that the only way some of them will ever be heard is if they are angry or act out violently.
Then we have the nerve to get upset at them when they do just that. But I say to all of you angry children out there, that I'm not mad at you. I'm not mad at you for being angry and acting out. Because I understand. I understand that we have not been there for you as we should. I understand that we did not fight for you the way we were supposed to. I'm not mad at you at all because I know we can do better.
I'm not mad at you because I know once we do better and show you better, that you will be better. I'm not mad at you because I understand that what you're really angry about is that we are asking you to stand on a shaky foundation that we've failed to build up properly. I'm not mad at you because we've asked you to build yourselves up when we haven't helped you do just that, and we have allowed the world to constantly attempt to tear you down. I’m not mad at you for being angry because we've expected you to help build our future, but we refused to give you an adequate blueprint. We can't be mad at our children for being misguided. We can't be mad at our children for acting out or being angry. They should be mad, and their anger is directed exactly where it should be. Right at us.