There are a lot of things going on in America right now, and with the advent of social media, young African Americans are becoming more and more aware of what those things are than ever before. Prior to social media, many young African Americans were not as engaged in reading publications, watching news outlets, listening to talk radio or keeping up with major current events involving politics and government. Social media has given young Black people the opportunity to get this information in real time, in a way that is interactive and enlightening.
Many young African Americans have had their eyes opened to the real-life issues that impact them on a daily basis, and are becoming more engaged in and educated about those issues.
As America finds itself in the midst of a contentious presidential election, with two polarizing nominees at the top of both major tickets, many young Americans find themselves confused about the state of the country and looking for leadership from adults to help them understand it better. Couple that with the uncertainty many young African Americans have about their safety and future possibilities, considering the number of African Americans that have been killed by police; the recent killing of police by rogue vigilantes; the challenges of chasing after a quality education; the conversations around the Black Lives Matter movement; the unfairness of the criminal justice system; and the limited number of job opportunities available to them.
Young Americans have found themselves searching for answers and looking for quality leadership to help them navigate through these tumultuous waters called life in America.
With the summer drawing to a close, and students returning back-to-school this fall, it is important for parents to provide their children with the necessary knowledge to stay safe and secure at school and away from school.
It is also imperative that school administrators, teachers, community leaders and responsible adults, help support parents in an effort to ensure their children are protected, and that they are able to process their thoughts and better understand what is happening in this country.
It is important for parents to talk with their children and allow them to share their true thoughts and feelings about what is happening in this country. Many times, people are distracted with things that have nothing to do with the core issues impacting this nation, and tend to focus on sensationalism rather than seeking solutions to address the root cause of the issues.
Since desegregation in the 1960s, several generations of African American youth have grown up in an America that is much different than that of their fore parents. Since that time, many African American youth grew up not understanding the sting of segregation and the realities of racism, and were therefore left with the sincere impression that they would no longer be affected by those things. Time has shown, especially when looking at statistics and the current climate in America, that African Americans are experiencing many of the same issues they dealt with during segregation, and in many cases, far worse.
Many African American youth are tired of having to figure out things on their own and are looking for African American adults to be open and honest with them about the realities of their history and current status here in America – past, present and future.
Famed African American sociologist, historian, civil rights activist, Pan-Africanist, author and Editor W.E.B. Du Bois, once said, “A system cannot fail those it was never meant to protect” and many believe that statement is more relevant now, especially as it relates to Black people, than it meant when he initially said it.
As we look at the number of cases involving the killing of unarmed Black men in this country, many of them young Blacks, many would argue that the pattern shows that Blacks are looked at as the guilty aggressor, while Whites are viewed as not guilty and focused on protecting themselves or that they can be redeemed if given another chance.
The overarching perception amongst many Americans about Black people, particularly, Black youth, is that they are overly aggressive criminals who are inherently up to no good.
According to a recent Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll, nearly half of U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump’s supporters described African Americans as being more “violent” than Whites and being more “criminal” than Whites, while 40 percent of Trump supporters described African Americans as being more “lazy” than Whites. Interestingly enough, nearly one-third of the supporters of Trump’s Democratic presidential opponent, Hillary Clinton, described African Americans as being more “violent” and “criminal” than Whites, while one-quarter of them described African Americans as being more “lazy” than Whites.
As they say, perception is reality, and this is the perception many Black parents and responsible adults must deal with in order to ensure young African Americans are not receiving the wrong message about themselves from those who may view them in an unflattering light.
As we see the ever-increasing number of Black murder victims rise in this country at the hands of law enforcement officials, one can understand how many Black youth have become disenchanted with systems that allow African Americans to get killed and assaulted, many times on video and with witnesses, while perpetrators escape accountability for their actions.
According to a recent ProPublica analysis of federally collected data on fatal police shootings, young Black males in recent years were at a 21 times greater risk of being shot dead by police than their White counterparts. This is a major problem and something that concerns most African American youth and their parents. However, until all Americans see this as a major issue, and get engaged in seeking to bring forth change, the Black community will continue to see the same results. As Americans, we should all be deeply troubled and concerned about the rising tide of violence among America’s children – particularly young Black males.
If unarmed children like Tamir Rice can be senselessly executed by police without even a shred of evidence or proof of wrongdoing, then one has to ask what kind of country this has become.
Without being given much direction, young African Americans have decided to take matters in their own hands by strategizing, organizing and mobilizing, whether on social media or in the streets, in order to bring about change. Many young African Americans are returning to school this fall, and they must be encouraged to express themselves in ways that are helpful to their future, but not harmful to their lives or other people’s lives.
Many of the members of the previous generations of African American adults failed to protect many of our Black youth and failed to fight for them. Because this new generation of Black youth are smart enough to know what is truly happening, many of them have made the important decision to stand up for themselves when other people won’t.
That is why the Black Lives Matter movement was birthed, and continued to gain traction. Black Lives Matter was birthed by a remnant of young African Americans, who were sick and tired of being sick and tired, and wanted to do something about dealing with the issue of police brutality and other issues that harmed Blacks.
The hip hop community was formed because many Black youth needed an outlet to express themselves because of what they were experiencing and going through in this country. It has become a tool that continues to influence and make a difference. Gangs were formed because many Black youth wanted to know what a family looked and felt like, so they joined gangs to form and belong to a family that they felt truly understood them.
Anything that Black youth have created or gravitated to has occurred because those young people were seeking a way to establish their identity. Young people need direction, and without direction they don’t know who they are, and will do anything they have to do in order to feel protected, have stability and receive the security they need to survive in this world.
This generation of Black youth needs to be mentored, because many of them feel like they have been abandoned. This generation of Black youth needs to be encouraged, because many of them have come to the realization that they are living in a country that does not seem to value their Black lives, and many of them are beginning to do their own research to better understand that Black people have experienced this harsh reality since the founding of this country.
As this crop of African American youth go back-to-school this fall, many of them are fighting for their lives, and seeking relevance the only way they know how – through using the tools and resources they have at their disposal. It is important that parents and responsible adults not judge African American youth by constantly berating them and telling them what they are doing wrong, especially without properly mentoring them and showing them how to do things right.
The role of parents and responsible adults in the lives of Black youth is extremely critical right now, and all Americans must use this time in history as an opportunity to begin supporting Black youth and helping them deal with the social ills and issues of the day.
If parents and responsible adults don’t return to our rightful place and take on the mantle of leadership, America will have a generation of Black youth who are driven by anger, emotional instability and immaturity, but who are continuously seeking answers and looking for leadership.