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January 28th, 2008
12:30 PM ET

Demanding to be heard - and tuned out

It's heartbreaking. And maybe it's only a New York City phenomenon. Or an urban one.

Black- and brown-skinned children acting out on the subway. And I'm not talking about infants or toddlers. I am talking about teenagers and young adults.

Jami Floyd

Jami Floyd frequently comments on issues of the day.

Loud and foul-mouthed, drawing stares from respectable black folks and sidelong glances from others too intimidated to look at them directly. This was heard this morning on the platform at West 86th,"Punk-a– Mother F-er! You b–ch. God damn! Sheeeeet."

This, from the mouths of babes, whilst the mothers of real babies, six-, seven-, eight-year-olds, looked on in resigned disgust, trying to distract their little ones from the sordid spectacle. And it's not just on public transportation.

It happens elsewhere, too. Grocery stores, street corners, the Gap. But the subway car is confining and the behavior inescapable. So, what is this about, this bad behavior on trains and buses?

I grew up alongside these kids in an even grittier New York City. And sure, kids can be loud. But there is something about these poor kids from the inner city and I have thought about this for years. I've come to the conclusion that it is about power.

These are children who feel powerless - powerless over their neglectful schools, powerless over their dysfunctional families, powerless over their roach-infested apartments - no heat in winter, no cool relief in summer.

They see a world in which they will likely be left behind and they don't like it but they feel powerless to change it.

Their obnoxious and embarrassing behavior is a cry for help - for attention. They seem to be saying, "Look at me! See me! Hear me! I am here! I will not be ignored." But of course - they are ignored.

The sad irony is that the behavior they exhibit only serves to further marginalize these children. We close our eyes, tune them out. We become immune to these encounters and have learned to do precisely what these kids are begging us not to do - ignore them. And that is what is so heartbreaking.

– Jami Floyd, “In Session” Anchor/360° ContributorRead more Jami Floyd blogs on “In Session”


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