The Hyper-Sensitivity of Youth

Earlier this week, I had to coax my son into toning down something he had written for one of his classes.  What he had written down made a lot of sense, but because his words
seemed to paint whole groups of people with one brush, I knew such language wouldn’t go over well with his teacher and classmates.  Some of them would have been offended. My son argued that he had done his research, that he knew what he was writing about.  But I told him that he couldn’t believe every video he saw on YouTube.  When he started pulling Old Testament verses from the Christian bible, my first instinct was to faint.  I almost had the urge to change course.  He was making what initially seemed insensible make sense.

Father and teenage son standing outdoorsMy son is a child of African descent.  But he also knows that Native American blood flows through his veins and his last name – Faulkerson – is a Jewish one, albeit one originating from White slaveowners.  And I get it; he wants to get in touch with his roots. As his parent, though, I can’t let him go out like that. We live in an era where even grown adults will not respond well to the hyper-sensitivity of youth, or adults.

He did indeed tone down his language in this one paragraph, and it reads much better.  I still cringed at the sight of that one word, but what he wrote was the truth as he sees it.  I commended him for his scholarly focus, for that is one of the things children, youths and adults need to go from BETTER2GREAT.  But it got me to thinking about our adolescents’ quest to discover their self-identify and self-worth.

I tell my son all the time that he is an African king who will one day find an African queen. But my son is quick to allude to the fact that he doesn’t want to limit his matrimonial prospects to the African Diaspora.  He wants to go international.  Nothing wrong with that.  I just want him to never lose sight of who he is as a descendant of African kings and queens, their enslaved descendants’ struggle and emancipation.  I want him to know Black is beautiful. But I am heartened by the fact that he doesn’t view people through a color-coded prism. In his eyes, every female has an equal chance of becoming his future bride, and I’m alright with that.

As human beings, we know the concept of race was constructed to divide rather than unite us.  By wanting to go international with his dating and marital relationships, my son is letting me know the sting of racial politics has almost become obsolete in his mind.  Yes, he may get riled up about what he sees on YouTube and the 6 o’clock news, but being able to hold in his sensitivities (i.e., bite his tongue) is often the best course of action when you’re dealing with diverse groups.

Offended people do not want to cooperate.

Offended people do not want to collaborate.

Offended people just want to get as far away from you as they can because it’s not your race/ethnicity that disturbs them; it’s the audacious insensitivity of your words.

I once told my son that I can see him becoming a lawyer.  When he takes a position, he stands firm, backing his points up with cultivated facts.  That’s a good thing, but his unwillingness to always be open to hearing the other side can be perceived as stubbornness.  The challenge for us parents then is to make sure we help our children overcome this stubbornness by facilitating processes that enable them to get in touch with their selfless selves.  Only then can they display the sensitivity that builds bridges instead of walls.

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About Jeffery "J.A." Faulkerson

Jeffery "J.A." Faulkerson is the Executive Director of ACHIEVEMENT SQUARE Development & Training Centers, Inc. Through his Northern Virginia-based nonprofit corporation, he strives to help economically disadvantaged individuals increase their capacity to become great nurturers, great learners, great workers and great leaders. Jeffery is also a Nonprofit Strategist | Book Author | Motivational Speaker with Culturally Coded Content, a for-profit creative writing and strategic planning firm. He is the author of Adinkrahene: Fear of a Black Planet (fiction) and Real Men Raise CHAMPIONS: Unleashing Your Inner COACH (nonfiction). In July 2015, Adinkrahene: Fear of a Black Planet was named one of three finalists for a Phillis Wheatley Book Award (in the First Fiction category). The Phillis Wheatley Book Awards are held annually in conjunction with the Harlem Book Fair in New York City. A certified parent educator through Active Parenting Publishers, Inc., Jeffery is committed to showing all parents how to positively influence their children’s thoughts, feelings and behaviors. He earned his Master’s of Science degree in Social Work from the University of Tennessee, and has worked with professionals in both the public and private sectors for over 20 years to improve outcomes for low-income children and their families. Jeffery is available to speak about his insights and experiences as an author, child and family advocate, philanthropist, and former TRIO Upward Bound and YMCA director. He also offers fee-based services for individual and corporate clients and facilitates fee-based workshops for parents who understand the importance of honing their skills and learning from other people’s experiences.
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