Our Kids as Target: The Easy Cheap Shot
Somehow the email made it into my inbox. The title, as intended, caught my eye:
“Gifts for Bitchy Teens: 13 presents for kids who supposedly hate everything”
by Trae Bodge, “a senior editor and consumer spokesperson based in New York City.”
Kids as Easy Targets
I looked up Ms. Bodge, a pleasant-looking professional woman with impressive credentials and background. Her material, in point of fact, was rather innocuous: make up bag, journal, cell phone case. And, to be fair, she may not have been the culprit of the provocative, or rather, defaming, title of the email pitch. But hers was the only byline, so I have no choice but to respond to her.
An Open Letter to Trae Bodge
Dear Ms. Bodge,
I am writing on behalf of some friends of mine. Actually, more than “some,” but tens of thousands, if not millions. These friends come from all across America. They are black, white, Asian, Latina/o and several other ethnicities. They are poor and wealthy. Most struggle with their body, whether it is their weight (some believe that they are too large, while others too small), their height, their eyes, nose, mouth, rear end, feet, toes, fingers or any number of other areas. Some know they are “gifted,” but wonder if that’s all their good for. Most think that they’re not “gifted,” because they have been told that dozens of times a day their entire lives. The lot of them know that even they are perceived as being “gifted,” that label lasts only as long as they’re able to produce for whomever is keeping score. And they are universally being crushed under the weight of the pressure from this performance culture.
These are my friends.
I’ve been walking with them for decades, and studying them academically for almost as long. They trust few with what they really feel or think, but once they do each one is a geyser of thoughts and feelings and pain and longing. They belong to me, as children used to belong to all adults in whatever community, tribe or culture that called them their children.
So when you label them as “bitchy,” you’re not only demeaning our kids, you are insulting my friends.
It bothers me when an adult, any adult – and especially someone who has power and uses it to take a cheap shot at someone who has no power – decides that to make a point, or, worse, sell a product. Trae, you might not have intended to wound my friends, but you did. You see, when you give permission for a parent, grandparent, teacher, coach, pastor, cop or anyone else who interacts with a young person to join you in belittling them, or to negatively label them or to take for themselves an unfair and unfounded shot at them when they have the chance. It’s one thing when the shouting louts from TV “news” shows take them down; no thinking person takes them seriously anyway. But when an attractive, well educated, highly acclaimed blogger/reporter decides that our kids are “bitchy,” well, then, they become fair game.
What I ask from you is to use your power and influence to offer an apology to each young person out there.
Next time you’re at Starbucks, take a minute to thank the young woman or man serving you for a pauper’s wage. When at a movie, look into the eye of the one taking your ticket, and let them know that they have served you well, and you appreciate them. The next time your credit card doesn’t work getting gas, and you’re forced to go inside and talk to that guy at the counter, take a moment to show your appreciation that there’s a person available to serve us when the computer lets us down. Perhaps, Trae, if you, and those who agree with this sort of libelous attitude toward our young would just slow down a little bit to offer a word of kindness, or at least a smile and a “thank you,” maybe they wouldn’t be so “bitchy” to the next person they meet.
Maybe you’ll even make a new friend, who could teach you something about human dignity.
Sincerely, your friend, too,
Chap Clark, PhD, is professor of Youth, Family, and Culture at Fuller Seminary and president of ParenTeen, Inc. Chap has authored or coauthored several books, including the award-winning Hurt 2.0: Inside the World of Today’s Teenagers, Sticky Faith, and Adoptive Youth Ministry: Integrating Emerging Generations into the Family of Faith. Chap and Dee live in Washington and have three grown children.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.