About this Blog
The title of this blog, "I'm About to do My Thing," was inspired by Jill Scott's introduction to her poem "The Thickness" from her live album Experience: Jill Scott 826+. In this intro, she warns that the content to follow is "real" and proceeds to deliver a beautiful message about self-esteem in young black girls, what can influence and damage that self-esteem, and the entire village's responsibility--"it takes a village"--to elevate its children.
Wednesday, February 2, 2011
"I Don't Really Care": Ruminations on History-Apathy Among the Young
In my own home, I’ve been guilty of some of this finger-pointing toward the child, and I’ve been trying various methods to point that finger where it belongs. My latest idea? Embrace the cool, little known bits of history that make Black History Month so much fun. Of course, I know black history is important every day of the year, but February offers a way to make my new idea especially festive—so I thought.
Upon sharing the news with the kid that I want him to find out about some new people this month, the following exchange ensues (or something like it):
Kid: If I do the Black History Bowl [annual trivia competition at school], do I get a pass?
Kid: But I’m not interested in any of the people.
Me: You don’t even know who they are. How can you already know you’re not interested?
Kid: I’ll only be interested if they’re from Africa. If it’s anybody else, I don’t really care.
Me: What do you mean by “anybody else”?
Kid: I don’t really care about hearing about people getting the right to vote. Or like Jackie Robinson, the one who was the first black guy to play baseball in the majors. I don’t really care.
Me: How can you not care about the things people did that allow you to go to the school you attend or that allow us to live in our neighborhood? How can you not care about your own history?
I’ll stop there. I don’t know if this is a generational thing, and I used to say that younger parents have got to do a better job of making sure our kids know and appreciate their history, which is why I was inspired to go forward with my idea in the first place. What do I get? Apathy. Jadedness. Over-it-ness.
I tried to understand why. Is it that the kid is so privileged that he can’t conceive of identifying with any struggles that would have precluded that privilege? Is it that our world is becoming increasingly “global” so that young people have a hard time appreciating their differences and the histories related to those differences (not to be confused with being preoccupied about race or engaging in superiority/inferiority complexes)? Is it because the kid is a teen now, and this “appreciation boat” has sailed?
I’m not gonna lie. I’m disappointed. My hopes for this month are shattered. Do I make him do it because he should know this stuff, or do I let it go until he’s reached a point where he can appreciate it? Do I force-feed him or wait for him to come to the table? I honestly don’t know. I want him to be proud of his heritage and to be eager to explore it. Is it too much/too late to ask?