Confronting Racism

This past week for our group discussion, we took a break from our usual entrepreneurial training to talk about the events in Charleston and, more generally, what it means for the Youth Collaborative to strive to become a multicultural community. It was the most serious conversation we've had thus far in our weekly gatherings, and revealed many surprising things about our teens' perspectives on race. Most surprising of all was the fact that among our attendance of almost a dozen teenagers, none of them had heard about the attack on the church. Just as the lack of initial media coverage showed an unwillingness to confront this tragedy, that same sense of unwillingness has seemed to trickle down into social media circles and even school administrations. One of our adult leaders, himself a public teacher teacher, hypothesized that perhaps the schools would rather avoid addressing the touchy subject of shootings, than to use it as an opportunity to grow our youth's understanding of their place in civic responsibility.

We talked about how racism is contextual, and how depending on the situation the majority might feel like the minority, and vice-versa. We opened up about our past experiences with prejudice. We learned the way that most urban youth see racism in their daily lives is in how their peer groups joke and use humor, so we discussed boundaries and the essential need for empathy. Without empathy we fall into the trap of self-defensiveness, into the trap of preferencing our own sense of satisfaction over another person's God-given humanity.

These were topics that the teens never really explored before, but they did a great job processing everything.