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Black children should not be at the front of social justice movements

Black children should not be at the front of social justice movements

Black children should not be at the front of social justice movements
October 29
17:30 2020

The Black Lives Matter movement is finally receiving the attention it has been desperate to garner since its origins in 2013 after the death of Trayvon Martin. The movement was born as a response to the brutal treatment of Black Americans at the hands of law enforcement nationwide. In addition to the countless Black men and women who have taken to the streets to protest, Black children have been doing the same. While a child protesting might appear noble, Black children attending Black Lives Matter protests is not as virtuous as it seems.

It is important that parents have conversations with young children regarding race. However, for Black children, the conversation does not end at just words – it goes further than just a talk at the dinner table with mom and dad. In June, a video of 7-year-old Wynta-Amor Rogers chanting “No justice, no peace” at a Black Lives Matter protest in New York went viral. Following the fast spread of the 15-second clip, Rogers was crowned an icon by many celebrities and supporters of the movement. However, others were saddened by the sight and voiced their concerns.

“White privilege is realizing, my youngest daughter is the same age, and has absolutely no clue what happened in the last week,” one Twitter user posted. “This little girl, and her family, didn’t have a choice.”

Similarly, Nolan Davis, an 8-year-old biracial boy, organized and led a Black Lives Matter protest in Kirkwood, Missouri, this past July. He too was praised for his efforts to push the cause of the movement forward. Praising Rogers and Davis for being so heavily involved in such a critical movement is incredibly tone-deaf and ignores the fact that they are children who should be living their childhoods like others their age. While young Black children might become aware of what racism is, a child cannot fathom the concept in the way an adult or teenager can. Understanding why someone can hate you and incite violence against you because of the color of your skin is something that takes time to process. Taking young Black children to a protest is setting them up for the reality their young minds are not equipped for.

I do recognize Black children shouldn’t just be left in the dark regarding the racial injustices that will inevitably impact them. However, as a result of being encouraged to act with their community against police brutality, they are denied their innocence. Before they are teenagers, Black youth are taught about how society uses their skin as a weapon against them.

Additionally, Black youth are not seen as the kids they are, thus they are unfairly viewed and judged like adults. This was the case for 17-year-old Trayvon Martin who was killed when George Zimmerman assumed Martin was much older than he was. The same was the case for 14-year-old Emmett Till who was brutally murdered for allegedly whistling with a white woman. Misjudging the ages of Black kids implies they are less childlike than non-Black kids and can lead to the loss of their lives.

Additionally, responsibility is unfairly placed on Black children to be there for their community in a pressing way. Mari Copeny, also known as Little Miss Flint is a 13-year-old activist who has spent a third of her life pushing for change regarding the ongoing Flint water crisis. Copeny has given out over one million bottles of water and has fundraised to ensure Flint continues to be provided with water bottles until the crisis is fully resolved. The young activist has empowered millions of girls her age. However, this amount of responsibility for a teenager is immense and can potentially harm her mental health as she continues to grow and develop.

Raising Black children in America has always been difficult given the social climate regarding racial politics and racial injustice. The mistreatment of Black people warrants uncomfortable conversations with Black families regarding race. While these conversations are important to be had, Black children such as Rogers and Davis should not be subjected to attending or organizing protests in the fight for their lives. Instead, they should be allowed to simply be children.

Featured Illustration by Miranda Thomas

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Michelle Monari

Michelle Monari

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