Why should we try to engage young people who have everything they need already? For a lot of the time I was growing up my family struggled to meet it’s basic needs, and although we usually had food, water, shelter and clothes, there were days and weeks where we went without. As I’m growing older and my socio-economic status is changing though, I’m finding myself increasingly surrounded by young people who grow up without want for toys, let alone basic needs. Why do these youth need any of my energy?
In a society that relies on social inequities in order to perpetuate negative economic patterns, there is no apparent end to the oppression faced by the disenfranchised. I am under no illusion that there are grave inequities and there are apparently frivolous injustices; however, in a world with limited time and ability to affect the great numbers with a message of hope and ability, we must start anywhere and go everywhere. With that thinking I believe that the work of enriching the lives of young people of privilege gains value, as long as it’s rooted in building consciousness and ability towards fighting oppression. All young people regardless of socio-economic background need to learn about the oppressive forces they perpetuate and suffer under; whether this focuses on racial, gender, age, economic, sexual orientation or other inequities, everyone needs to learn the realities that face us in this world. In learning the realities that face others and identifying the roots of the situations they find themselves in everyday, young people of privilege can become allies in the struggle against oppression, and grow in their ability to sympathize rather than pity those who are different than them. Dr. King once wrote,
“True altruism is more than the capacity to pit; it is the capacity to sympathize. Pity may represent little more than the impersonal concern which prompts the mailing of a check, but true sympathy is the personal concern which demands the giving of one’s soul.”
As Dr. King frequently said, and folks like Paulo Freire, bell hooks and others continue to insist, we need a soulful revolution based in love. Building the capacity of all young people to engage in this work should be our mission. The question of how to engage these youth is for a different post; here I’m only trying to answer why we should. Share your thoughts…