Dumb Things We Do As Kids

As the current Governor of Virginia, and the next three guys in line have recently discovered, suddenly it is a “thing” to be held accountable for some dumb thing you did as a kid, so far back in time that you can’t even remember you did it.

Rather it be blackface, a DUI or a comment you scrawled on a friends yearbook page, thirty and forty years later we are watching bewildered adults being called to task, or worse, careers ruined for what only a few years ago we would have wisely written off as poor judgement by young men or women in the process of growing up and becoming adults.

If we are reluctant as a society to hold a 16 year old kid accountable for a mistake they make today, why would we be so eager to annihilate them 35 or 45 years after the fact? It’s simply not logical, and I don’t understand why our media is so eager to jump on this bandwagon and help.

Why are no pundits out there being brave enough to stand up and point out that the goofy nonsensical man who is fumbling to try and defend his actions of 4 decades past is coming across as silly because the whole thing is silly on it’s face.

Were you to point out a picture of me in my high-school yearbook and criticize me because I appeared stupid, I’d probably agree with you, and I also can guarantee you that I will have absolutely zero recollection of the picture, and especially any circumstances that surround it.

While my own personal experience is that teenagers of today are far less mature than teenagers of yesterday, suffering the effects of helicopter parents and lack of exposure to real-world conflicts they had to solve on their own, I still think that those teens from 40 years ago should not be held accountable for making a stupid error of judgement.

Take, for example, blackface. In 2019, the mere idea of a white person donning makeup to appear as black is loathsome and repugnant. Through education, we have learned why this behavior should be shunned, and we try to teach our children that everyone should be respected, regardless of what ever about them might make them different from ourselves.

But, in 1950, or 1972, or even 1980, as a society, we had not yet achieved that level of education on any widespread level. Oh, sure, there were pockets here and there – the hippy movement of the 1960’s was a beginning, but it was a slow process, that even today is ongoing and incomplete.

I am not today a racist person in any shape or form. But, I was raised in the deep south in a family that for the most part was racist. Not activist racist, I don’t think any of my immediate family was part of the Ku Klux Klan, but in the small ways that really matter in a society.

In my neck of the woods, in my formative years, and not through any particularly purposeful means, I grew up to think that black people weren’t as intelligent, weren’t as “good” as white people. My parents didn’t sit me down and tell me that, it was simply all around me by the preponderance of the evidence. I learned that people with different skin color were “other” because that’s how all the people in my life treated them.

In my town the drinking fountains were labeled “white only” or “colored.” The bus station had a separate waiting room around back with a sign over the door that said “colored.” Until I was in the 4th grade, the white and black kids even had separate schools.

And hold your breath here – but I had absolutely no problem with this. Given an opportunity, I probably might have used blackface for a Halloween costume and never given it a second thought. It wouldn’t have been from disrespect or as an intentional act of racism, but instead an act of innocent ignorance as a direct result of my growing up where black people were “other”.

When you are raised in an environment that gives you examples like this, you cannot avoid adopting the same actions. It is only after you grow older and begin to form your thoughts as a separate and independently thinking person, and gain experience on your own in the world that you can begin to shed the lessons of your childhood in favor of new behavior and new attitudes and new insights.

I don’t think there is a set age where this happens. For me, it was my twenties. Serving in the military helped broaden my exposure to different people and different cultures, but it certainly wasn’t an “all at once” thing like a switch being turned on or off. It was a process that took time. Some of my family still have attitudes towards black people that are holdovers from the old south Jim Crow days, and I can assure you that I’m embarrassed.

The United States today has a far healthier attitude on race than it did in 1960, 1970 or 1980. We are making progress, however gradual.

I don’t personally know the Governor of Virginia. I have no idea if he ever learned to shed the natural affectations of the environment of his childhood. It simply hasn’t been covered by the media as to whether or not there is evidence of him being insensitive to race as a grown adult.

I do feel however that we are wrong in holding him accountable for some dumb thing he did as a kid. This pendulum has swung out a bit too far and our society is suffering because we are now so hypersensitive about these issues.


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