We have many stereotypes about groups, such as people who enjoy sports, and about people from different ethnicities, financial status and education status, such as did they go to college or not. Most teenagers have been taught these stereotypes and feel that they need to conform to the stereotypes even if they disagree with the stereotypes. However, many teenagers also feel and believe that these stereotypes are wrong. As a result, they ignore the stereotypes they were taught and treat everyone with dignity and respect regardless of the person’s ethnicity or financial class. I have many teenagers asking me during their sessions how they can ignore the stereotypes without getting into trouble. They can clearly articulate why the stereotypes are wrong, but they know many adults strongly believe in the stereotypes and if they ignore the stereotypes, they could get into trouble with the adults who believe the stereotypes. They know taking a stand could create problems with parents, extended family and teachers just to name a few. However, they feel if they are going to be true to themselves, they must take the stand regardless of the cost.
We are seeing that the teenagers born after the year 2000, tend to have these beliefs and tend to act on them. As I have said before, the teenagers born after the year 2000 are a unique group and have different ideas and beliefs based on the many things they have experienced that no other group have kids have ever experienced. Remember these kids were born primarily after the 9/11 terrorist attack and have grown up with warnings about terrorist attacks and increased terrorist attacks around the world. Additionally our Country has been at war since they were born too. They also lived through the great recession and many where impacted by it. Finally, they have grown up with mass school shootings which around 2018 were occurring daily. Also because of this fact, they had mass shooter drills not fire alarms. All of this will impact how they see and react to the world.
Another thing these teenagers were exposed to were messages via movies and non-profit groups who work with teenagers and children that there was hope for the world and they were the hope. The children and teenagers were hearing they had the ability to change the world through their actions and by voting. Many children and teenagers have paid attention to these messages and believe them. As a result, they are trying to change the world.
Disney provided many movies with positive messages for children and teenagers. Beauty and the Beast taught children not to judge by appearance. You need to look inside the person to get an accurate view of their heart and beliefs. The movie, Frozen, taught children that it was alright to disregard the typical male stereotype. The movie said boys do cry and it’s normal. Finally, the movie showed that love is more powerful than hate. You can get more done and live a happier life by loving those around you instead of hating people. Finally in the High School Musical movies, children were taught that it’s normal for people to have different interests and the stereotypes could be wrong. In these movies you had a hispanic teenage girl as the lead and in the movie she was the smartest person and should how you could expect others without judging. You also had a white, overweight cheerleader, a black girl who was extremely intelligent and you had a black basketball player who also liked to cook. All the characters violated the ethnic stereotypes and all the characters were very good friends. In fact, the final song discusses how we are all in this together and need to work together and accept each other just the way we are. There was no need to judge and it was alright for people to have differences. A very powerful message. This message was also highlighted in the movie The Greatest Showman, a movie about P.T. Barnum. The newspaper critic provides the message of the movie, “putting people together of all different sizes and colors could be considered a celebration of humanity.” Again another message to accept people as they are and it’s alright for people to have differences. In fact, we should accept and celebrate our differences.
Children and teenagers watched these movies and paid attention to the message these movies were delivering. In addition to these movies you also have groups, such as Challenge Day, working with teenagers. These groups educate teenagers it’s alright to be different and the stereotypes regarding men and women are outdated. They are educating teenagers that everyone has the right to be accepted and loved just the way they were born. Additionally, teenagers are receiving the message they are the future and they can change the world. Teenagers are listening to this message and also starting to act.
A great example of how teenagers have listened to these messages are the teenagers from the high school in Parkland, Florida. These teenagers had to endure a horrific experience with a mass shooter at their high school. Typically after a shooting everyone discussed how changes need to be made. However, changes never seem to occur. However, these teenagers decided to take action. They formed a group to meet with politicians and demanded changes. These teenagers formed the group March for Our Lives and have established satellite groups in most states of the United States. They are still meeting with politicians but now all over the Country. They are also protesting and educating the public using social media.
Black Lives Matter is another great example. Teenagers are tired of seeing people being discriminated against because of their ethnicity. They feel everyone is equal it doesn’t matter if you are white, black, brown or asian. We are all equal and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. The teenagers are willing to put their beliefs into actions. They are willing to hold peaceful protests and to educate others about how society needs to change and accept everyone. They are determined to give meaning what is in scribed on the Statue of Liberty, “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” This statement implies that we all need to be treated equally. It also indicates our Country world eliminate systemic racism and discrimination.
Our Country is facing numerous issues regarding race and ethnicity. I think we need to remember what is on the Statue of Liberty and we need to pay attention to what the teenagers are pointing out and requesting our Country to do. The time has come to address systemic racism and discrimination in this United States. If we do, we will make life better for everyone in the Country. A very common mistake is this systemic discrimination only impacts people of color, however as the Disney movies point out is the systemic discrimination impacts people who are white too. Think about it because it does have an impact on our lives. A negative impact. The movies, novels and history have shown us that hate is toxic and love sets you free and improves your life. Listen to the teenagers and choose love.
Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating children and teenagers. For more information about his work or private practice visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.”