Home News Center Checking Adultism to Deepen Dialogue with Youth

Checking Adultism to Deepen Dialogue with Youth

June 27, 2019
Alyson Clements and Selia Koss

Checking Adultism

Where do we start when beginning conversations on topics as difficult as race equity?  We know 
race conversations are difficult all around as everyone walks into the room with different experiences and grounding.  And differences grow as the audience becomes more diverse, adding different age groups, cultural beliefs, religious ideology, and racial experiences. Navigating these difficult conversations is the work.    

At NJJN’s 2019 Forum, “Modeling Youth Led Advocacy," we invite youth and adults to bring their full selves into the room for conversations on race and racial justice. As a community of anti-racist, youth justice advocates, the duty is on us as adult professionals to not only share our experiences but make space and center young people’s realities and understandings.  As we prepare for this deep dialogue, we aim to provide tools that will create a welcoming environment for youth to bring their authentic voice to these necessary discussions.  

As you walk into the room here are some tips we hope ADULTS will keep in mind:  

  • Recognize that there is a racial gap among generations.  In the United States, younger generations are more racially diverse than older generations.  The way young people talk about race is reflective of both their own racial identities and the experiences they have with their racially diverse peer group.  

  • Check your adultism.  Yes, the topic of conversation is racism, but for us to tackle this topic collectively, adults need to check their privilege. You should recognize that youth are partners, not subjects or outcomes, of the work.  If you hear adultism at work, politely challenge it in your role as an ally to the young people in the room.  

  • Be a resource for young people. This work is hard.  Help pave the way for young people by making space in conversation for their reflections and ideas and be a source of support to them by welcoming them and answering questions about racism and what it means to be an anti-racist organization.  

As you walk into the room here are some tips we hope YOUTH will keep in mind:  

  • Recognize that there is a racial gap among generations.  The way adults talk about race is reflective of the generation they grew up in and the cultural experiences they have had.

  • Check adultism in the room.  Adults aren’t perfect.  While the onus isn’t on young people to keep adults in check, we encourage young people to speak up when adults are minimizing youth experiences and ideas.

  • Challenge adults in the room to provide you with information to engage in the conversation.  Anti-racism means lots of things to lots of different people, and requires us to think about power dynamics, implications of laws on youth of color, pay equality and so much more.  Which is to say, if you have a question about something, others in the room have the same question. So ask away!  

We hope you will keep a few of these tips in mind as you engage in dialogue with young people about race, racism, and anti-racism.  And remember youth are not simply participants but leaders, so be sure to allow space for them to lead the discussion as well.  

<- Go Back