I've been down here supporting Occupy Atlanta quite a bit over the past week. The young people I see around me are working hard for everyone's future. Still, I've heard them called an ignorant, racist mob, spoiled brats and worse ... and that was by some liberals!
We put out a call this past Monday for a group to go hand-deliver a letter of invitation to Rep. John Lewis. A young man named Roger volunteered to take it.
"I was one of the people last Friday who didn't want John Lewis to speak," he explained. "And when I denied him, I didn't know who he was. I asked my friends and family, they didn't know who he was."
Roger isn't some snotty white kid from somewhere out of town. He is a local young black man. Visibly upset, he said, "I was ashamed that I didn't know my own history."
I'm not sure he should feel shame. But I'm pretty sure I know who should.
All of you out there of an older generation who've been mocking them for being ignorant — the ones who let our education system run into the ground — many of whom think of yourselves as "liberals" or possibly "intellectuals," I think you need to check yourselves. In the mirror.
Yes, some of them are painfully ignorant of things they very much need to know. But it's not because they don't want to know. Like several generations of my family before me, I am an educator and will go into info-dump mode at the drop of a hat. Whenever I do, several of the young people around me stop and listen. They are eager to learn. They will actually follow me around and help me with what I'm doing so they can keep talking about it. Teacher heaven must be like this.
And it's not because they don't care. They do care, desperately. They are out there risking arrest as I write this. This isn't because they don't have anything better to do. It's because they have something scarce and precious as diamonds these days. They have conviction.
It may be that, occasionally, they don't quite know what they are talking about. They might not know many things they ought to know. They do, however, know something that many of you don't seem to: that there is something deeply wrong with this country, that it has to do with how our political process has been co-opted and corrupted by vast, unimaginable sums of corporate money, and, most important of all, that it's possible to change that.
We, the people who let things get to this state of affairs, have failed them. In spite of it, they have not failed to be the people they should be. If you think they are ignorant of anything they ought to know, then I challenge you to come down to "Troy Davis Park" and talk to them. They will welcome you. And you just might learn something.
Sara Amis is a poet and mother who teaches English at UGA.
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