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As a kid I was always concerned about adults their weird obsession with white skin and complete indifference for anyone breathing in a darker shade of skin. As a teenager, I remember apologising to people in the UAE because the multi-national society around me held many stereotypes high in regard including that Pakistanis were liars, frauds and had a thirst for bloodshed. A large part of myself was always questioning the normalcy of why a certain skin color and nationality not only held precedence over the others but some of the others were absolutely the “bad guys” while the other part of myself felt crazy for questioning such normalised behavior. During late-teens, I blocked all critical thought that kept my narrative different from the masses to stop feeling stupid and demeaned. I know that it was the irrational social fabric showing me its deranged colors of social labels, intersectionality and prejudice, I wish I was taught such sociological concepts as little acts of unfairness.
The kids who were stopped from seeing the unfair side of the social fabric
As kids, we are never taught social concepts such as privilege and social stratification and yet we see them embedded in what our mature self-calls “the social fabric”. From a very early age, we are conditioned to that social order around us so much so that it seems to us as a natural order. While some of us may realize that the unjust metanarratives of intersectionality are rather manmade, a considerably large population internalizes these concepts never realizing these concepts are the polar opposite of social justice. The vicious cycle of passing this mindset onto our children is continued, making the society rigid enough that it won’t achieve equity anytime soon.
Our kids become the new victims or the new perpetrators of social injustice.
Malala, the teenager who went beyond social stigmas defining her narrative
At twenty, I look up to Malala, who not only understood that keeping away girls from education in the conservative was just an irrational medieval concept Swat but also became an activist for female education internationally jolted by her own terror to fight for the right of every girl’s education internationally. While she had an entire society to discourage her spirits so much so that she was shot in her head, Malala’s father who helps her run the Malala Fund was her constant conviction to never comply with the unfair metanarrative of her society. How do we raise more girls like Malala, girls who have the ability to see the unfair as the societal pressures maneuver them to believing into narratives that stand as polar opposites to social justice?
Raising kids who can spot social injustice
One opinion that will often be seen disregarding the idea of the “woke kids” will be sheltering our children from the cruel exposure of the unjust society. Another opinion against raising kids aware of social stigmas suggests that it destroys the whole idea of kids experiencing a childhood filled with laughter and a happy-go-lucky spirit. However, keeping 10-year-olds from learning about social stigmas do not shield them from injustices. They have seen homeless people on the street. They’ve been instructed to hide under her desk in active shooter drills. Maybe they’ve witnessed domestic violence at their home or have heard a loved one suffer from it. Self-report studies show that 20% of adult females and 5-10% of adult males recall a childhood sexual assault or sexual abuse incident. Right when you keep your child fortressed from directly experiencing any of the above, the internet will breach the boundaries you’ve set.
According to the American writer “You Are Mighty: A Guide to Changing the World”, Keeping activism out of kids” reach shortchanges them — by under-preparing them for life”. While kids have a greater capacity to be upset by what children call lack of “fairness”. Unlike adults, kids are very particular of who gets more candy which makes them sensitive to noticing such injustices. While issues such as racism, sexism and classism are complex, the underlying concept of equality is simple and similar which kids can be greatly moved by. Because of this sensitivity present in our young ones, it is not just imperative for a just society for kids to carry such a mindset into their adulthood but also liable on parents and teachers to help them understand these discrepancies and why they are wrong.
It is also important that we teach our kids the right platform for activism so that they are able to instill in them an entrenched spirit that speaks for what’s right and shuns the wrong. While controversial, activism tactics will not only breed a culture of fairness and equality but will also raise a generation of kids who are more comfortable in having face to face discussions about issues that feed social discrepancies, helping them learn real-life social skills, like teamwork, planning, strategy, and communication. It’s vital for any democratic process and any society to have such individuals to make the world for everyone, not just for a limited a particular class, color or gender.
It’s a win-win situation: equality thrives, and so do our kids.