Quit Making Racism the Young Man’s Burden

Quit Making Racism the Young Man’s Burden June 5, 2020

Today I saw an otherwise lovely, if a tad anodyne, church statement on recent events, that included The Appeal to The Youthful Savior.  I won’t quote it verbatim, but you know the type:

  • “Young people are our future.”
  • “Children will show us the way.”
  • “We need to learn from the youth.”
  • “The next generation will be the ones who solve this problem.”

I’m sorry, are you dead yet?

Quit trying to brush your personal failings off on your kids.  If you are guilty of racism, knock it off and change your life.  If you are guilty of failing to evangelize those who live in your parish neighborhood because they aren’t like you, change that.

There is no one alive on this earth who is not able to be part of this change.  Are you ancient and bedridden and dependent on others?  Treat your caregivers with equality and respect.  Are you retired to an all-white retirement community and honestly don’t have a way to get out of your bubble?  Quit tolerating the racist jokes of your peers on the putting green.  If you are in parish or diocesan leadership . . . just do your job, yes?

On that last point, let me tell you about a parish leader doing her job.

This week I sent a thank you note to the youth leader who has played a small but pivotal role in my children’s formation.  Why? Because as I’ve watched my kids, each in their various ways, respond to our nation’s present struggle, I knew that this youth leader had contributed her part in helping my kids grow up to be decent human beings who want to do the right thing with regard to human rights.

She does this by explicit teaching and she does this through her instinctive choice of evangelizing service projects for the kids that transcend social barriers and affirm the inherent worth of all members of our community.


Where did she learn to be this kind of person? From her parents.  She has memories of being oblivious to the possibility of racism, of being shocked to discover it in others, and of seeing her parents actively take a stand against racism in ordinary neighborhood life of the 1960’s and 1970’s.

She learned not to be racist from old people.  She, an old person, teaches kids to be anti-racist.

I’m very sorry if the old people in your life are racists.  I’m doubly sorry if, like my kids, you are discovering that many teens today still share their parents’ racist worldview.  But let’s not compound this with ageism.

If you are an old person, it is your job to lead our society in the way it should go.  Don’t abandon post.  Thanks.

Artwork: Icon of Two Elders, Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral (Chicago), via Wikimedia, CC 4.0.

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