12-Year-Old Schools 70-Year-Old On Being Adult In Today’s America

Don't Ask Unless You Want To Hear Answer

Staring into my cup at Peet's
Staring into my cup at Peet's

I was visiting with one of my favorite young people, a 12-year-old woman, at Peet’s Coffee on Piedmont in Oakland, and I asked her what she was reading.  I ask everyone what they are reading.  It’s one of the things I do.

She handed me her paperback.  It was about sexual slavery in modern America.  As a young Black woman, it seems, she didn’t see any difference between cotton king slavery of Blacks and sexual slavery of young women.  She told me she picked it out at a book sale at her church because Hillary talked about it at the convention.

It strikes me that people so concerned with slavery in this country are curiously uninterested in the fact that there are more slaves, 27,000,000, in 2016 than at any other time in human history.

I asked my young friend if maybe the book wasn’t a little “heavy” for a young person.  (After all, she is too young to drink coffee.)  She said (and this is why I still have faith in people), “If they’re old enough to go through all that, I guess I’m old enough to read about it.”

I so want her to be reading Nancy Drew, The Boxcar Kids, National Velvet, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings.  I want a world for her where the Grifter-in-Chief, an obese, greedy, arrogant, insane, power-mad thief and liar who either can’t or doesn’t read assumes he has the right to  judge her by her body on a 1-10 scale.  Who actually believes he has a right to put his paws on her.  I want a world for her where that kind of rare intelligence, wisdom, and courage is rewarded, where she isn’t taught by peer pressure  to speak in a high girlish giggly voice so she isn’t perceived as a threat to anyone with a Y-chromosome who isn’t enough of a man to appreciate and value the intelligence of mind as well as the beauty of a body.

But that isn’t her world.  She was born into an urban landscape, in a culture which assumes that women are second-class citizens, subject to the dominion of men, regardless of their individual worth as human beings.  Where Viagra is funded by insurance but birth control is not.

I really have nothing to say to her that she doesn’t already know.  So I hug her and tell her she can always talk to me about what she’s reading.  And I leave her to find her own way.

About Grace Harwood 29 Articles
Grace Harwood is a writer, photographer, and abstract expressionist who lives in Oakland, California. She is the woman you wish lived down the block so you could have coffee every morning. When she was young and didn't know you could do it, she founded the world's first human rights journal, Matchbox, for Amnesty International USA. She is a feminist, a wit, and general all-around smarty-pants who does her research -- in short, a well-known pain in the ass to anyone who doesn't think or doesn't care. https://graceharwoodpainting.wordpress.com/

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