As a young teacher, whenever my students would say to me in an act of defiance, “I don’t care,” I would respond by saying, “you never have to say whether or not you care because your actions show it.”
I was not trying to be disrespectful or sarcastic, I actually thought my words would resonate with them causing them to self-reflect, possibly even consider what the repercussions may be from “not caring,” or to just stop them from saying that they “did not care.” I never thought for a second nor did I want to believe that they actually meant what they said. If anything, I thought, they were just blowing off steam, speaking out of frustration, anger or maybe even embarrassment. I mean, who has never uttered the words, “I don’t care”? We say it very much even as adults, “hey you know if you keep showing up late for work, you’re gonna have to find a new job.” “Man, I don’t care, this ain’t what I wanna do forreal anyway. I’m gonna be a rapper.” I’m not remised to hearing those words, as I stated, I just never wanted to accept the fact that our youth actually meant it. However, after teaching for more than fifteen years in the city of Baltimore and working with youth in many different capacities, it saddens me to conclude that many of our youth really “don’t care.” And what is extremely frightening is the idea that youth who don’t care ultimately grow up to be adults who don’t care. I ponder the question, “How can we make people start caring again”?
It’s been often said that this generation of youth are the most fearless. That statement is most prominently used and attributed to us recently viewing local and national news watching our children either challenge, engage or completely ignore authority because they “don’t care.” Our youth have become so oppositional that it’s been term a diagnosis called, Oppositional Defiance Disorder or ODD. Which simply means that they are oppositional to authority. And because they are oppositional to authority, we’ve surmised that they are somehow fearless, bold and brave. This is quite concerning to me because we may have misinterpreted what their defiance actually misrepresent and just like so many others, we to have mislabeled our own “fearless” children.
When I was a kid being opposed to authority didn’t make you fearless it made you stupid. When I bucked at my parents, displaying opposition towards them, I got an ass whooping. One that I probably could have avoided, if I was being smarter. If I disrespected any elder or my teachers in school, I got an ass whooping. Once again, something that I could have avoided, if I was being smarter. If I didn’t follow the natural authority over my life, I was raised to believe that a “natural” punishable act would kindly remind me what I should be doing and what I shouldn’t be doing. That little thing called karma was always an excellent teacher to me and still is. I can still recall my family “politely” reminding, “Boy ain’t no need to cry now. Didn’t I tell you what comes around goes around.”
We have failed our youth because we have not been responsible teachers. I’m not speaking about educators in the sense of Math, Reading and Science. Everybody wants to blame the teacher. No, I’m referring more to life lessons and our roles as parents and responsible adults in the community. Without a doubt, we should encourage our youth not to be scared or intimidated by others. But we should also properly equip them with the right lessons and guidance so their fearless attitudes towards the world could be used to make intelligent decisions that help them and their community, not hinder and possibly lead to their own demise. How do we merge the two? How do we raise a generation of conscious fearless caring youth? Aw man, can you imagine, how dangerously determined and unstoppable they would be?
Honestly, I don’t have the answers to any of the questions that I raised, but I do know this one thing for certain. Our youth don’t care because we’ve taught them not to care. Caring is for suckers. Caring is a sign of weakness. A couple of weeks ago I was engaging a group of high school students in a conversation and I was blown away when a young lady said to me, “Mr. Dews, caring will get you killed.” Damn. We’ve raised our children to be emotionless, heartless and inattentive to their own feelings and the feelings of others. We beat them at very young ages and dared them to cry because if they did cry, we’d threaten to beat them to stop them from crying, cause “we ain’t raising no punks.”
That’s just some of what we did to our own children, not mentioning what’s been done by design systemically with mass incarceration of black men, the influx of drugs in our neighborhoods, poverty, substandard living conditions, inadequate educational opportunities and everything else that has inflicted pain and desolation onto the black community over the last thirty years. Our children are fearless, but they are fearless because they don’t care. They really don’t care if they live or die. Some may think death is better than their present situation. And they don’t care if they live or die because we raised them not to care. Which could only mean that we don’t care about them or ourselves. We have a cyclical problem that so desperately need to be tended to. But rather than honestly address the problem and implement change, we just label it and then write about it. If you read it, “great.” If you don’t, “shid, I don’t even care. Caring is for sucka’s.”