The above photo was taken by my son. He, like his dad before him, is in the journalism group in his school. It is of him and his fellow students walking out along with teens in schools across the nation protesting gun violence and demanding that my generation and it’s elected officials take action. His generation is fighting for their lives.
It is not just gun violence. It is black teens in Chicago protesting for their schools to remain open. This is LGBTQIA fighting for their rights to use bathrooms and locker rooms without impunity, be recognized for their chosen names and take whomever they wish to prom. This is fighting for the right not to be literally bullied to death at school. Some are fighting to not be objectified and sexualized by unequal school dress code policies that shame young women. The cry of this generation is the right to live. Frankly, the alumni of my generation and the one before me and after me has failed them.
In the height of hypocrisy we have seen the response of adults, including parents of teens and elected officials, shaming and mocking these young people for embracing the most patriotic action. Protest. Making your voice known. Refusing to be silenced by oppressive powers. Our response is mockery, shaming and bad advice.
My son has more pictures he took that day. They feature mostly young women leading the charge, there are black teens, hispanic teens, Asian teens, middle eastern teens, and several that are LGBTQIA. Natural and organic intersectionality standing together. That is the mark of his generation and it stands in stark contrast to my generation and the values (or lack thereof) that I recently saw on display in my alumni’s social media.
My 30th year reunion is coming up and someone I was close to in high school was tagged to take part. Upon joining the alumni sight things escalated to political quickly by the more conservative alumni. The conservative alumni who enabled the most racist, xenophobic, sexist, and transphobic president in modern history to take power. The conservative alumni that includes a school nurse who has proactively used false medical data about trans teens and their parents to a girl I was dating for a time that was also in my alumni. It is from their mouths that I hear all lives matter, walk up and not out, and covert racist, islamophobic, and anti gay venom spew forth.
It was when the educated liberal minded alumni spoke up that the silencing occured and things were to be reunion only discussion. When he expressed feelings of not feeling welcome, well intentioned people said not to make things political. As vocal as I am in most spaces I have blocked or unfriended most of these people. I can only expel so much energy and I try to place the energy in the spaces where it will serve the most impact and make a difference. Most of what I do is not very public because I am standing or marching or working with and for. I am not there for selfies or leading charges. There are leaders doing the work and my job is to elevate and support.
Let us be clear. This is not politics. This is not ideology over civility. The truth is, this is the very lives and livelihood of others. Sitting on a throne of privilege sitting in your very white suburban church and mancave silencing the voices of the oppressed and being part of the very threats to the lives of the most vulnerable. If silence is complicity (which it is), snarky commentary is even more complicit and active in harm and in death of children.
I recently have had to block some of the millennials that used to be youth in an outreach I ran when I was a pastor. They are in their mid twenties now. Why did I block them? Toxic masculinity and rape culture statements. I helped some of these voices get through their own poverty and oppression. They got GED’s and opportunities to go to school through our efforts and we often spoke about rape and rape culture and LGBTQIA rights and racism. They sat in a circle and as people cried and bled out their emotional wounds about the hurt they faced. These voices should know better and yet, they participated in the most horrific. This is not political. This is safety of women screaming #metoo.
My son and teens all over the country fought for their lives last week. A week before that teens in the City of Chicago fought for their schools to remain open while the wealthiest sections of Chicago have nothing to worry about and get all the resources they need.
In 1968 the hispanic students of East LA started a movement. They had academic and administrative demands. They walked out of school in mass protest fighting for the right to a quality and equal education in which they were not abused by staff. Early in the fight they took police batons across their young faces fighting for an education. They persisted, so did the batons. They won (sort of, we are still not equal).
Anyone who thinks shaming the kids of my son’s generation will stop them are sorely mistaken. They are doing something more brave and more noble than my generation had the intestinal fortitude to do when we were their age. How dare we claim to know better than them when we have not had to fight for our right to exist or get an education that matters?
This isn’t me being political. This is life and death.
I am proud of my son and his peers nationwide. I am embarrassed by many of their parents. People of my generation, my peers, and my alumni. I am proud of some of my peers and humbled by some of them. But there is more shame for they are complicit in what is hurting my son and his intersectional family.
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