I find myself, not for the first time, with an inexplicable internal disenchantment. I say that a bit facetiously for my overpriced pieces of paper—also known as degrees—may have bestowed upon me the ability to verbalize my thoughts in an efficient manner. In any case I will attempt to do so. I recently collaborated with my track coach and assisted in—wait for the pun—running a speed camp for local youth ages 5-16. The older ones, 14-16 were fairly pleasant. The younger kids were just like any other; loud, obnoxious, belligerent, unruly, hyper, sweet, adorable, kind.
What disturbed me however: was a much darker, deeper, problem. I find this problem consistent in the majority of my contact with America’s youth (This past year has granted me hundreds of hours in local high schools and several hours in various camps). The problem at least to me seems to be, an extreme aversion to gays and a willingness to oppress others. As a side note, due mostly in part to my geographical location, most of the children I was in contact with were colored. Though the race of the children is not imperative to the issue at hand, it is ironic. This will be addressed later. Now, I’d like to make clear that this is not as much an argument on whether homosexuality is right or wrong, as much as it is a jab, or an assault on parents and how they raise their children.
While I understand that there are power dynamics in all social settings; that is there are unwritten rules amongst peers in which a few, usually by their own doing presume positions of power. And to that end, in a group or society, in this case a group of 30 or so school-age campers, there are favorable individuals and less favorable individuals. I do not understand however parents that allow such hatred to be instilled in children. In their allotted free time, I would hear 6, 7, and 8 (boys and girls) year olds, their tiny voices filled with disgust and ridicule “Aw you’re gay, get away from me” or “That’s gay, you like guys”…The children on the receiving end of the ridicule obviously uncomfortable, and what shocked me most, was my immediate contention to say things like “watch your mouth” and “language!” in a failing attempt to stop the ridicule.
I was not sure what to say. I was not sure how to respond. The children knew enough to know, at least indirectly, that gay meant same sex attraction. I did not want individuals that were being called gay to feel uncomfortable—hence me telling the ridiculers to watch their mouth—but I did not want to simultaneously make other campers think that “gay” was a bad word. Or worse, that being gay is a bad thing. This too, however is not imperative to the larger problem at hand.
The problem is hatred, and the mere fact that these children despite their prepubescent feeble minds can stigmatize, hate, and oppress others with no knowledge that the same oppression, and second-class citizenship was once a problem they faced. Especially considering that majority of children I am referring to are colored. It is not absurd to assume that a few of their grandparents lived in an America far different from our own, lived in a time that saw blatant racism run rampant. Let us not forget it was only 50 years ago that blacks were boycotting to be treated as equals. Blacks, or Negroes as they were eloquently called, were being stopped, harassed, by police and canines alike. Colored people too often were the targets of water hoses, and batons.
I can’t expect for these children to know their history, but as a parent one should play an intricate role in molding their child’s world perspective. It is funny to me, blacks, and America as a whole reveres Martin Luther King Jr. yet few know that his fight in the civil rights movement was not necessarily for blacks, and against white, but a fight against oppression.