Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Last week featured grown folk behaving badly and adults gone wild. From Serena Williams’ temper tantrum and tirade at the U.S. Open tournament to Kanye West’s disgusting and ill-timed protest of an MTV VMA award winner and from Republican U.S. Representative Joe Wilson's disrespectful outburst during President Barack Obama’s speech at a joint congressional session to the hissyfit thrown by conservative pundits, politicians and parents who jumped up and down to prevent the President’s speech to school children from being shown in class and labeling it as a “scheme to indoctrinate our youth into the president's socialist cult,” the cuttin' up rolled on seemingly out of control.
However, while grown people acting childish - impetulant, irrational, impatient and self-preoccupied – is ugly and sad, the growing presence of children who, because of the current economic crisis are forced to prematurely bear the weight of grown-up pressures is even more shameful, disgusting and disgraceful. It is also a subject that goes almost unnoticed.
Only 20 percent of teens are able to get jobs leaving over 1.5 million unemployed and 12 million young people without food. There are 14.1 million children or one in five, who are poor and living in poverty in the richest nation on earth according to The Economic Policy Institute. In 2009 a quarter of all children in this country will be living in poverty and by 2010 the child poverty rate will be 26.6%. This would represent an increase of 10.4 percentage points from 2000 to 2010. The EPI terms it – truly a lost decade.
Nearly 800,000 homeless youth are in schools attempting the nearly impossible feat of learning while simultaneously sharing in their parents' physical and mental anguish concerning how they will eat, handle illness, buy daily necessities, and pay for utilities, rent or mortgages.
I used to fret over what was termed "the first generation of African American children who grew up outside of the black church." But to also have to grow up in the hopelessness and despair of the 21st century's economic crisis and never experiencing access to the jobs and material resources of previous generations is exponentially worse. It means that the normal stage of innocence and children's future have been stolen by having to shoulder poverty, unemployment, crime, drugs, violence, HIV/AIDS, teenage pregnancy and other effects of inequality and economic disaster.
Growing up too late is a pity, but growing up too soon is a tragedy.