Monsters, Black Youth, and the Politics of Disinterest/Misunderstanding
A fellow facebooker wrote,
“How are Youth lacking role models? Our fucking President is black – what youth are lacking is an asswooping. In this country anyone can go to college simply by raising their hands. There is no excuse to be in America and not have a Bachelor…s IF someone wants it. No one gives a fuck if you think your high school sucks ass when you have a D. It’s always the absent minded parents, and kids flunking who complain, never the straight A kid. Urban/black/hispanic youth need to wake their ass up and start blaming themselves for not having a diploma/bachelors. Shit even my dad has a Phd and he grew up poor in mississippi a long fucking time ago…just my opinions”
When I was younger, I was one of the many children who were afraid of the imaginary “monster” hiding under my bed. Fortunately these monsters always proved to be absent, especially as I got older. The only problem is, the longer I live the more these imaginary monsters are replaced with real ones. The real monsters that unfortunately continue to perpetuate the negativity in the lives of black youth who live on the margins all across the country. These are the monsters who would rather stereotype and judge before they take the time to understand and be interested. This is the same species that would rather tirelessly preach at personal agency of a whole population while simultaneously ignoring or just blatantly not understanding any type of systemic barrier that continues to plague the lives of these black youth and the communities that they live in.
Many times one would think that the monster hiding under the bed is someone or something foreign. Many imagine the monster to be an alien or something that falls in the shadows on unfamiliarity. However, I argue a more nuanced point. I think the “monsters” hiding under the bed are many times the ones who are closest to us. They are our friends, neighbors, and family members. The one’s we will eat dinner with and the ones we share our lives with. When speaking of monsters, these are the one’s who do the most damage, only because they unapologetically display the most offensive narratives when it comes to issues facing black youth. I call this the politics of disinterest and misunderstanding. This term represents the views of people who don’t understand the lives of black youth, but furthermore (and even worse) don’t show any interest in trying to understand or in caring for this group of people.
Someone who is close to me wrote that quote on facebook. Not someone from Fox News, not Glenn Beck, and not some spiteful conservative that is angry about affirmative action. This quote is from a person that I would consider my friend. This is why I am worried. This is why I still fear the remnants of the “Reaganomics paradigm” that began in the 80’s. If one more person tells me that black kids can succeed just by raising their hand in class I will throw up. If one more person uses President Obama as an example of how systemic barriers are gone, I am going to throw up on them. My problem with focusing on the personal agency of black youth is that it ignores the root causes of problems that need to be addressed more now than ever before.
All I can say for now is black youth must combat the “politics of disinterest and misunderstanding” with a politics of action and activism. Which is the only type of politics that will overcome generational, governmental, and systemic barriers. Until we actually attack the problems at their foundations, the lives of black youth will forever be in the margins.