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ABOUT OUR TEENAGERS

June 1, 2012

I was in a McDonald’s restaurant one Saturday afternoon after doing yard work and noticed four teenage males sitting at a table and having fun with their rambunctious conversations. The volume was loud and became louder. The cursing was mild and then became volatile. The “MF’s” the “N” word were in every sentence. The hats were carefully placed upon manicured braids and dreads. The blue jeans were tightly wrapped around the thighs so the “proud” buttocks could be imagined under the dirty underwear.

I didn’t budge very much since this is commonplace in the Washington D.C. area as probably in all urban areas. I kept reading my book as I continued to refresh my thirst with my cold drink.  Two fellows got out of their seats and began to play “tag” running around the eating area like four and five year olds.  The other two proceeded to do the same.  After a while the eating area transformed into a circus; the four teens acting like fools and the audience very quiet but attentive to what was going on.  I looked at the members of the audience and there was fear in their minds.  “I’m not going to get involved” I could imagine them saying.

At this point, my mental kettle began to hiss. I wasn’t sure I was upset at the teenagers or whether I was mad at the “do nothing” patrons. After a few more seconds, my primitive brain took over;  I couldn’t take it anymore!  It was deplorable behavior and frankly embarrassing to me because these kids were of my own African American race.  I stood up, came over to one of the boys, injected a very serious look into his eyes and told him to “cool it right now!!’ “You guys are acting like you WANT to be arrested when a patron secretly calls the police. What could have resulted in a confrontation with me and the teenagers turned into them looking at me with fear and eyes so wide open and apologetic. “I’m sorry mister” he said to me. I later sat down with all of them and explained how Michelle Alexander’s book, The New Jim Crow, explains how their behavior is profit material in the new prison industrial complex. THEY ACTUALLY LISTENED like no one has ever explained this to them before. They were all quiet now, sitting and apologetic again.

I then left what could have turned into a bad scene.

The lesson here is about fear. “You shouldn’t get involved; they may have a gun” is what we adults all hear. “Let the police take care of it.”   The above may all be true.  Approaching a teenager in public requires a great deal of sensitivity, however.  Let them know you have concern for them;  after all,  you are protecting them from what could result in a lifetime of derailment and an emerging hostile adult.  Be firm but not accusatory.

You will be surprised and renewed about the power you have as an adult. It may help when you have to chastise your own teenager when they challenge you,  often to the point of confrontation

They may look threatening but they are just physically grown up kids still.  Remember that.

…….talk with you soon,

Dr. “D”

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