An Imperative for Youth Empowerment

What is the missing element in almost all youth empowerment work today? It is an awareness of discrimination against young people.

We don’t like to hear it, but EVERY adult discriminates. While an increasing amount of people are concerned about racism, sexism, classism, or homophobia, that’s not what I’m talking about here. Today, I want you to understand that every day adults discriminate against young people – including YOU and ME.

Discrimination has many definitions, and one of them is the capability to discern difference between two or more things. It is in this way that adults constantly discriminate against young people. That’s not necessarily wrong or bad, but it is true. Adults who don’t discern the difference between them and young people generally have developmental restraints that limit their ability to discriminate. Again, discriminating against young people and being in favor of adults isn’t always bad; it simply IS. Accepting that reality is the first step to creating a more just and equitable society benefiting all people.

When adults don’t have the ability to discern the difference between young people and themselves, or when they either accidentally or intentionally blur or erase those differences, something is out-of-whack with them. Similarly, when the differences are hyper-exaggerated something is out-of-whack, too. Unfortunately, those two things are routine in our society today. 

Recognizing that reality is imperative for creating authentic youth empowerment. Otherwise, adults are simply giving lip service to young people and saying they’re equal, but acting in other ways. They are being disingenuous and inauthentic by going through the motions without any real meaning behind what they’re doing.

If you choose to see yourself or other adults as being devoid of discriminating against young people though your behavior, attitude, actions, and/or ideas, that is up to you. I choose to acknowledge that I’m discriminate against young people. Sometimes that that is a-okay, and sometimes its messed up. That’s me being honest, and this blog is meant I urge you to do the same.

Written by Adam Fletcher, this article was originally posted to http://commonaction.blogspot.com. Learn more at adamfletcher.net!

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