Marvin Gaye singing

Adults, Please Get Out The Way [How Students Do It]

Jose 2 Comments

This morning, I imagined Marvin Gaye would have a few things to say about what’s going on today:

Today was supposed to be Michael Brown’s fourth day in college, getting acclimated with the ins and outs of college life, surely different than the humdrum K-12 bells. Sadly, he never got his chance at college and career readiness as the Ferguson police’s hands still smell of blood and tear gas. We never got the chance to see Michael Brown past the few pictures that the media has offered and the sharp image of him mother mourning. The names of young women and men who also had their potential stolen from them read like one of my student rosters at school.

Then it hit me. The activism around Trayvon Martin, Oscar Grant, Renisha McBride, and, more recently, Michael Brown, ripe with young folk doing amazing speaking and organizing, should serve as a reminder to adults a) how much we as adults often look down upon younger generations and b) how much potential the next generations have to move people forward.

In spite of the tragedy and strife of concluding that these public institutions aren’t made for youth of color in mind, our nation’s youth move in ways that adults can’t, so let them. Instead of telling adults, “Here’s what we used to do in the 60’s, so in order to be activists, here’s what you need to do,” we should be saying, “How can we help in your activism?”

Anytime we put ego and nostalgia over selflessness and progress, we lose.

Many of our favorite activists were high-school to college-age when they came into their advocacy young. The ones who were chased by dogs, thrown into trucks, and beaten without provocation were in high school and college, taking days off to work in communities and do the groundwork of the leaders. I see similar energy in spaces right now. Some adults are helping to facilitate these actions. Some adults are taking credit and / or snitching to elders for the sake of looking loyal.

Stop. Adults, if you’re not helping, get out of the way. The “kids” are alright.

Jose

photo c/o

About Jose Vilson

José Luis Vilson is a math educator, blogger, speaker, and activist. For more of my writing, buy my book This Is Not A Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class, and Education, on sale now.

Comments 2

  1. Peter

    Mentioning Oscar Grant brought back not only that tragedy, but the pain I felt watching ‘Fruitvale’ and seeing another young man who could have been a student of mine suffer; that hurt.
    I am concerned that we adults, the ones who should be preparing young folk, are still not doing it right. We don’t vote (unless it’s November and the President’s involved), we don’t maintain the vigilance over those public institutions that should be serving us, and we’re still not teaching our young people how to control confrontations with ignorant, fearful folk in and out of uniform. We’re not doing the daily work to prevent events like this.
    When I saw a video of Mr. Brown’s friend recounting what happened, though, I can say that this young man conveys insight, clarity, and honor. From our educator experience he is quite credible. Somebody or some folk did right by this young man, and I pray it is a catalyst in this awful situation.

  2. Dienne

    “…how much we as adults often look down upon younger generations….”

    I don’t know about the “we” who read this blog – I honestly don’t think most of us do look down on the younger generation. But for the more general “we”/society as a whole/the dominant culture who do look down on the younger generation, I think in a lot of cases it’s precisely *because* of their activism. Today’s kids are viewed much like kids of the 60s were – the “militant” black activists joining with the “spoiled”, narcissistic”, “suburban” white kids who were/are just out for “attention” and the “dirty” hippies/”druggies. My generation (the 80s), on the other hand, is/was viewed more favorably because we put on our preppy clothes and our Coca-Cola shirts and went to shoot-em-up movies and were “bored” by politics.

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