Teens Can Teach Us A Thing Or Two About Race

We can learn a lot from young people.

I was watching a video my teenage son made a couple of weeks ago with some friends of his and started thinking about why the video touched me so. It was a simple video, just friends playing in the park and having  some fun. And yet watching it gave me such a good feeling. Finally, I think I figured it out.

Besides capturing the simple innocence of youth, which is always good to see, and a reminder to those of us who are parents, how important our job is to protect them, what really got me was the easy ethnic mixture of friends. Again, for my son and his friends, the world is much simpler than it is for so many of us when it comes to “race” and ethnicity. For them, and so many I see in his generation, they do not have the hang-ups many of us older folks grew up with. Maybe there is some naivete in that, but maybe that is a good thing.

It is true that they don’t know the tensions of the Civil Rights Movement and what went down in the South in the old days. They don’t know in a real way the underlying issues for much of our politics yet. So indeed they are naive in that way. But on the other hand, maybe we adults know too much. Maybe we have learned a whole lot of stupid crap about each other that is not worth knowing, or more importantly, not rooted in reality or real knowing anyway. Maybe not knowing, or being ignorant or naive, is a better way. Ironically, recognizing and cultivating the acceptance of not knowing is the root of Korean Zen as my wife and I are learning about in a book we are currently reading.

The kids in that video know more about each other, see more about each other, than we adults do because they see what’s in front of them. What they see is not based on a perception of the person based on history, earlier wrongs, ethnic blinders, etc., all the things that prevent a person from really seeing just another person, not a package or culmination of something they are supposed to represent.

And that is why I am so excited about this generation of kids. I hope they stay naive about each other, as relates to seeing each other based on what the world prefers they see and think about each other. For them, as I saw in this simple video, they are just people, regardless of ethnicity, hanging out, enjoying life and their time together.

Would that we adults be so naive.

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