Encounters between law enforcers (public and private) and young Black men with the deaths of the latter is all too common in the USA.
Likewise the emergence of ISIS as a recruiter of young would be jihadists to Syria and then into ISIS ranks is also clear as a bell.
Where are the adults?
Brain development research has shown teenagers and young adults don’t have the developmental capacity to make reasoned decisions.
Any parent that pays attention to their 16 – 20 year old knows this from experience. They don’t need a study to tell them this.
You can’t prevent your kids from making mistakes, that’s part of the journey of being young – learning from one’s mistakes.
But when being in the wrong place at the wrong time ends in death it’s not a teachable moment but a tragedy.
One of the keys to helping young people navigate this terrain is for a parent to be aware of what their kids are thinking and into - being in dialogue.
All too often when I hear stories of young people becoming protesters on the streets of Ferguson or joining ISIS I wonder where are their parents?
As a former anti-war and civil rights activist beginning in my 20s I was far away from home so that my parents couldn’t chart my decisions.
But my Dad and I had an open relationship so I shared with him my thoughts on a wide variety of personal and political issues.
I was never judged or yelled at but was treated like the adult I was in the process of becoming. That relationship continued until he passed away.
Young adults need a parental sounding board… Too many seem to lack that support system. I keep wondering why?
I wonder if the parents of clearly troubled teens who use social movements to “act out” really are in relationship with their late teens, young adults.
You can’t shelter children from making what you feel are dumb choices but you can be “in relationship to them” enough to know what they are thinking.
As “active” parents my wife and I have played the "parent card" many times with our two sons to give them the benefit of our views and life experiences.
The key to this parenting is not to yell and judge but to try to understand their views and remain in communication with them even when we disagree.
When I see young people protesting in Ferguson in late night gatherings or hear of young recruits going to Syria to join ISIS – where are their parents?
Let’s be frank. Too many African-American families are so fractured that the parenting function has been assumed by gangs and now protest groups.
As a young college professor in the ‘70s I witnessed very privileged young ones get involved in anti-war politics in part as youthful rebellion.
Experience shows that youthful emotions can take over the “moment.” At such times one has choices - to follow the crowd or use common sense. I've been there, done that!
Modern society has created a “youth consumer culture” that can be easily politicized and manipulated for purposes good and bad.
If Mom and Dad are in an open relationship with their teenage/young adult kids, the risks of youthful risky decisions can be hopefully mitigated.
Acting out and alienation is part of growing up. And society aids youthful marginalization by creating a “them” versus the “us” narrative.
European society has marginalized “the other” by its failure to assimilate or accommodate immigrants to mainstream culture.
In the US the Black experience mirrors a similar pathway to alienation especially among Black men who are viewed with suspicion by white people.
It also doesn’t help in Europe, the USA and the Middle East when youthful joblessness is a generational experience.
But increasingly I wonder “where are the parents when their kids are in the streets after midnight taking risks we may all come to regret…?”