Speak Now by Columnist Maddie Raymond: ‘We must practice active anti-racism’

  • MADDIE RAYMOND

Published: 10/13/2021 6:06:02 AM

Recently, I got into a car accident. I backed into somebody’s car while they stood and watched. I cried, I laughed, and my friend had to drive me back to school while I got it together. But that was the extent of the damages. A couple hours later, I had snapped back to normal. My whiteness made sure of that.

I’m a teenager, and teens make mistakes. I mess up, learn something, and move on. But not every teenager gets to do that. You might have heard the term adultification thrown around before. Usually, it applies to school-aged kids who are disproportionately Black and brown. When they make a mistake, they’re not treated as kids who messed up. They’re treated like criminals, facing harsher punishments and sometimes even legal ramifications. Imagine if you had the police called on you just for talking out of turn. Yeah, it’s like that.

The facts back it up. Nearly 40% of Black girls ages 10-14 face this adultification bias, meaning they spend their formative years being shown that society doesn’t believe they deserve the same protection as their white peers (Vox). Comparatively, the percentage for white girls my age is zero, so you can see that the reaction of the person whose car I hit was not entirely due to luck. If I had been Black, there is a higher likelihood that person would have called the police, or at least asked for my insurance and jacked up my rate for years to come. They would likely not have seen me for the 17-year-old child that I am.

Living in the white supremacist capitalist society that we do, it can be hard to root out and unlearn this bias. Even I’m not immune to it, as even though I speak up against injustice I still benefit from the privilege my whiteness gives me in situations like the accident I just described. Every day, my whiteness gives me unearned advantages that I don’t even see. So what can us white people do about it? We can put on our figurative glasses, scouting out all the times our whiteness gives us unearned privilege and try to actively reject it. When we get a promotion at work that a BIPOC (Black Indigenous, Person of Color) coworker was just as deserving of, we can try to see if they can take the spot or at least share its benefits. We can make reparations payments as a means of filling the gap centuries of racist oppression and exploitation has caused. That’s a whole other conversation for another day.

As white people, we must keep reminding ourselves that all people deserve to be treated as human beings. If you’re around young people, examine how you view each of them when it comes to their race. Give all kids and teens in your life the space to make mistakes and learn from them. I want to see a world where everyone can be treated with the same grace I was afforded the other day when I got in my car accident. Crime is a construct we created, so no one can be born a criminal.

Growing up, I learned to walk the streets with a sense of safety, and never looked twice when a cop or angry adult came my way, because I was taught I had nothing to be afraid of. I was given the space and opportunities I needed to learn about the world around me. This is what all children deserve, but it is not what BIPOC children get. White supremacy makes sure of that. As white people, we need to use that privilege we grew up with to make the world safer for the next generation of BIPOC kids. We must practice active anti-racism, so they do not have to fear us.

I was told I was the future all the time as a kid, and as I approach young adulthood, I’m realizing that’s true. But in order for that future all of you older generations want so badly to come to pass, we must afford all children — especially BIPOC children — the grace and security to develop into the powerful young adults they were meant to be. It shouldn’t only be me and people who look like me getting the opportunities they deserve.

Maddie Raymond, who lives in the hilltowns, writes a monthly column.




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