Written by Sarah Al Motairi
Photograph by Beverly T. Meneses
The time is 3:30 pm and school is out. As I walk the streets of my neighborhood, Kingsbridge Heights, I am taken over by sadness and disappointment. Sadness directed at our youth and disappointment directed at our adults. Ten minutes into my walk I witnessed a teenage boy smoking a joint behind a U Haul van, a teenage boy shoving a teenage girl forcefully (even though playfully) in the chest, a girl rapping vulgarly about her vagina and a boys penis, a young boy (must have been 10 or 11) trying to touch a young girls behind, the word M%&$#^ F%&#$%^ is heard by almost every child and a young teenage girl in Starbucks is bawling her eyes out to her friend about her boyfriend pressuring her into sex.
As a teenager I was a rowdy young thing, somewhat of a bully and most definitely a rebel. However, I possessed a teen’s innocence, the innocence of a child. Other than trying to curse every now and then or trying to meet with a boy I was interested from time to time (which I hardly got away with because my parents were hawks in nature), my mind was focused on fun activities like sports, girlfriend hangouts, writing and school.
Now as an adult, I look into the eyes of our youth and see pain, sadness, unnecessary responsibility and emptiness. I see hyper sexualized boys and sexually objectified girls. I see babies with babies. I see boys lashing out in anger towards one another. I see girls disrespecting their minds and bodies. I see boys disrespecting girls and girls disrespecting boys. I see emptiness. I see aimlessness. I see hopelessness. I see shamelessness. I see adults trapped in youngins’ bodies wishing they could escape; yet, still believing they are grown enough to pave the way to success. And, some don’t care to be successful or even know what that means beyond a catchy song.
I see mothers smiling proudly at an ill mannered young child whose voice is unpleasant and rude to others around. I see fathers neglecting their parental roles totally avoiding being a father or physically present but not mentally there. I witness parents being friends to their children rather than disciplinarians. Today’s youth is lost but not to their own fault. How is a child to direct him/herself when he/she lacks the most crucial thing, a role model to follow and respect?
I remember when I was young it took a village to raise a child. If a child misbehaved the whole community stepped in to educate and direct that one child. The worst parts of American culture seem to dictate new standards to our adults and youth alike. The worst parts of American culture seem to have removed the innocence from our youth; forcing them into an adult-like roles at a very young age. Who is to blame? Parents? Media? Technology? The education system? Our youth? Freedom? An exaggerated form of freedom? Or is it all of these combined?
I do not write this to judge or blame but rather to find solutions; solutions to help our youth heal today, so they can lead tomorrow. I write this with love. I believe that our youth are only as strong as our adults. However, I ask when today’s’ babies are having babies and parents are no longer parents, how our next generation becomes a Barack Obama, a Sonya Sotomayor, or their own version of an educated, respectful and successful adult?