A new year brings a new start, and offers us the temporal metaphor to leave our failings and mistakes “behind us,” and march boldly into a reality of opportunity, reconciliation, and love. In this effort, I offer that we leave many of the detrimental narratives surrounding Black youth in its rightful place—in the past. Let 2013 be the start of reorienting communities with intergenerational love and compassion. In short, let us stop the denigration of Black youth, and reposition ourselves towards the dedication to Black youth.
Dedicating ourselves to Black youth means abandoning venomous narratives that blame Black youth for the problems of which they too are victims. Dedication requires shifting the current discourse around Black youth from tenuous ideas of “values” and “respect,” to more complex conversations around the systemic perils that our youth must navigate. It is a question of priority. We should ask ourselves, do we want to talk about sagging pants, or do we want to talk about the criminalization being inflicted upon our youth through racial profiling policies such as New York’s stop and frisk policy? Do we want to scapegoat rappers like Chief Keef, or do we want to talk about the gang violence rampant in Chicago due to economic disinvestment, drugs, and gun laws, etc.? Do we want to deride young mothers for being “babies raising babies,” or do we want to talk about equal access to healthcare, sex education, and affordable birth control? Quite simply, we must realize the complex and perilous world our youth (and the rest of us) live in. Our conversations must change. Our dispositions must shift.
So dedicate yourself to youth in your own way. This could mean everything from actively joining an organization that serves youth to saying a word of encouragement to the youth you see walking along the blocks of our communities. If nothing else, you can refuse to engage in conversations that pit youth as perpetuators of society’s problems. You can work diligently to find the strength, resilience, and beauty in our Black youth. We can celebrate the youth who continue to graduate, work, and support their families and friends, and work to further empower the youth who have become ensnared in the pitfalls of being underprivileged. 2012 was disturbingly hard on Black youth, so let’s move into 2013 celebrating our Black youth, and working to get them to love themselves to the bottom of their hearts.