As I walked to my father's car, I saw a bunch of kids hanging out, sitting on the curb and in a car, with food and a Big Gulp or something on the car roof, laughing and talking. They looked like a bunch of delinquents, or like a group of friends. I smiled. I walked over and got into my father's car. "Those must be the gems of [your high school]," he said grimly. I scowled mentally.
Because you drive a good car and you have all this life experience and you listen to classical and jazz, Pink Floyd and Beethoven, because you work at a prosperous company with a steady, high-paying job, because you disapprove of drinking and swearing (yes, it is sad that such a profound book on racism is sullied by so much profanity...), because you read Nation and you think you've learned to take every view, you think you're better? You think you're superior to these kids? You think they're delinquents?
You know what? It ain't these kids, wasting their lives having fun, knowing the value of friendship, who need to spend some time in an educational community service program. It's you, wasting your life in a 9-to-5 job with a family whose lives you don't know about, thinking about what's wrong with the world and what should be different, sending money but never seeing how people live, who needs to spend 10 hours a week with the masses. It's you who needs to have the experience of finding out that yeah, you are being elitist, if not how the Republicans would say. It's you who needs to learn that they ain't inferior at all, just different, and in a lot of good ways. It's you who needs to spend long enough with the delinquent kids to see that they have lives, in a way the good kids don't. You think they have no idea what they're getting themselves into, that they're going to have a shock when they enter the "real world" without a good education, but guess what? These are the kids that already live in the real world, who are left behind and treated by people like you like they don't know anything when they're faced with the reality of broken families and substance abuse and crime and taking care of elderly parents on food stamps -- yeah, those are these kids, not some romantic idea of bony little kids in poverty organization ads saying "feed us," but these kids with some weed and a lot of profane vocabulary, and the fact that they can laugh so "ignorantly" and smile with their friends and blast some rap and snicker at you is fucking awesome. It's win. That's right, some bad words and teen slang right thar. They got spirit, man, and you've lost it.
Yeah, those gems of my high school, hallelujah, I'm a bum...I think I'd like to be them instead. But not permanently, cause god, the stuff they've had to deal with.
Break out of your elitist shell. Listen to Pink Floyd, Beethoven, and Lady Gaga. Stop trying to be hipster, Mom and Dad, it's not nearly as cool as being open-minded.