(After McKinney and hearing too many people say “Not everything is about race” as if somehow that would make it okay…)
Let’s say it’s not about race. If you take race completely out of the picture I think the evidence is clear–that particular officer brandishing a gun at nearly-naked teens is not fit for his duty; he has now resigned and that’s a good outcome.
Soooo even though I do think the event had something to do with racism, if I were wrong about that part my feeling would be essentially the same. If Dajerria Becton were some blonde white girl pushed to the ground in her bikini, I would still be horrified.
The job of the police officer is difficult, and not everyone is suited for the duty of protecting and serving. Sadly, this man in the video–he’s not behaving as one of those who match strength and compassion with calmness and integrity; for I have known such men and such women. Or if he ever was like them, he lost his way.
I can empathize with this person who is totally losing his shit in public, and wish privacy for his family and healing for whatever’s gone sideways in his heart.
But my sympathies are ultimately with the young, because even if they behave in unacceptable ways (which I don’t think these kids were, but even if I’m wrong) they are new in the world still. And because they shoulder the burden of our hopes–that the world will remain a living world, that our stories will still be told after we are gone–they deserve our kindness and not our fear. Our love and not our violence. Shelter and not rage.
They deserve better.
This Side of Home by Renée Watson
Recommend this book to readers of contemporary teen fiction who love straightforward prose. Readers looking for stories of teens making a difference in their communities will find an engaging heroine here.
Diverse content: The protagonist is a Black teen struggling with the community displacement afflicting her “gentrifying” neighborhood. A pervasive, centuries-old problem is brought into focus. The protagonist’s best friend is economically displaced by the gentrification in a historically Black neighborhood.
Study this for how it lets the characters directly address social issues. I appreciate the fact that the author let us hear the main character’s thoughts about her neighborhood and the changes; sometimes authors don’t go there, perhaps out of fear that it would be “preachy” or didactic if a character discusses their opinion on a political or social issue. But here is an example of how to do this. I love these teens engaged with analyzing and critiquing the city they live in. It felt authentic.
Like No Other by Una LeMarche
Recommend this to readers who love contemporary tales of star-crossed lovers, first loves, and stories of teens standing up for themselves against family and community. With delightful prose and authentic teen voices, the story culminates in a bittersweet ending that feels both authentic and true.
Diverse content: Devorah and Jaxon actually live on the same street but have never met before the start of the novel. Devorah is from a Hasidic sect, Jaxon is West Indian; they are from two different worlds that border each other in Brooklyn. The author is not Hasidic, but interviewed a number of people. Nevertheless, some Hasidic commentators have refuted certain aspects of the story as not based in fact. The West Indian cultural context feels less well-drawn. Jaxon’s circle of friends from his public high school is very diverse.
Study this for a winning tale of love-at-first-sight. Although both teens get POV chapters, the book is clearly the girl’s story; her stakes are higher and the culture seems more thoroughly realized on the page. The imbalance doesn’t necessarily mar the reading experience, but it is something to consider when delving into not one but two distinct cultures. Does it help or hurt the story that Jaxon’s world feels less researched, less detailed?