When I was a kid, one of the mothers in my neighborhood always referred to me as Trouble, as in “Here comes Trouble,” and “That one is Trouble.” I wasn’t.
While I had the incredible propensity for causing strife in my own life and the lives of folks around me, I generally didn’t. I lived in a rough neighborhood and didn’t have the best peer role models around me. Sure, I got in some fights and stole some things and got kicked out of school more than once and participated in some vandalism. While that may sound like a heinous list to some readers, for those familiar with low-income communities you’ll know that I rate pretty low on the “trouble” list.
Living Up To Expectations
As an adult, I’ve come to understand that as a young person, getting in trouble was often a way of expressing myself, particularly in times when I felt as if my voice was repressed, oppressed or otherwise held back. That’s not to say that it was okay, but it is to say that getting in trouble was often a form of inconvenient youth voice.
I think the same is true for a lot of young people a lot of the time. Sometimes that voice is more than inconvenient; it can also be malicious, hurtful or destructive. But “getting in trouble” is still a form of youth voice.
Ethically Responsible Adults
Its becoming more apparent to me that as ethically responsible adults we have to take more responsibility for the whole young person, rather than simply the parts we agree with. That means that instead of simply applauding ourselves for actively participating in the development of the compelling youth who makes a great speech in front of the town council, we also need to acknowledge our roles in fostering those expressions of inconvenient youth voice – good, bad or otherwise.
That means that so many of those times when the children and youth around us scream, or rung, or hit, carve, mark, cut, punch, steal, throw, yell, paint, demolish, careen, and all that – each one of those times there was an adult who was not responsible, not capable, not able or otherwise unable to positively engage that young person’s voice.
Who’s Job Is It?
That isn’t meant to foist all the trouble the world’s children and youth get into on the shoulders of adults. But can we actually claim to be allies of young people if we don’t accept our roles in the lives of the young people around us? I don’t think so.
As an ethically aware and socially conscious adult ally of young people I believe I have an awesome burden and responsibility to do the work I do.
I think you do, too.