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Anti-Youth Services for the Youth

whose voices are more important?

Forum: CNRG list
Date: 06/07/2002

On 06/07/02 10:32 am, "Tina Barfoot" wrote:

I just met with Maria Rojo DeSteffey, who is one of the County Commissioners. She wants SMYRC to get money. She is very supportive and she said what we NEED to do is get youth to come to this meeting on Tuesday and make a brief statement. I can help you with what to say. PLEASE, send this to everyone you know who loves SMYRC and wants it to stay open.

While I appreciate Kathy's work on behalf of the youth and her effort to save this valuable resource for them, I can't get over this anti-youth attitude seeping through her choice of language. "We" need to "get youth to come," when we could be saying "County Commissioners need to hear from the youth" instead? She could help with "what to say," rather than giving opportunities and support for youth to speak their own minds? I feel that these languages are antithetical to the work SMYRC is supposed to be doing.

Emi Koyama
Program Assistant
Intersex Society of North America

-- * Putting the Emi back in Feminism since 1975.

Forum: CNRG list
Date: 06/11/2002

Hello everyone,

1) In response to my criticism of adults who run social services for youth, who dominate and paternalize youth rather than truly empowering them to speak their own minds, suggested that I might be "somebody with some preconceived ideas about SMYRC...or perhaps even some personal issues with the staff there" which by his/her own admission is a pure speculation.

2) In addition, made the statement that it annoyed him/her to see people criticize "others who are trying to help people."

3) In response, I clarified why I dare to criticize "others who are trying to help people," such as adults who make statements that are fundamentally antithetical to the empowerment of youth even as they purport to support them.

4) Further, I criticized the sentiment expressed by, which mistakingly substitute intention for accountability. "Good intention" is not an excuse for abusive, controlling or oppressive (in this particular case, anti-youth) behaviors, and progressive activists' inability to acknowledge that we are capable of seriously harming those we are trying to protect needs to be confronted. Unless we are willing to hold ourselves accountable for the implications of our actions and statements regardless of what our intentions were, we will not be able to criticize bombing Afghanistan to "liberate" women from Taliban, jailing prostitutes and junkies to "save" them, "compassionate conservativism" kicking single mothers off welfare so they can seek out happy marriage, and so on.

5) My response to in which I addressed 3) and 4) was *rejected* by the list moderator as inappropriate because it was not "constructive" (I suppose that's characterization of me was appropriate and constructive, although it had no substance whatsoever). I disagree; all of my criticisms (unlike those by were based on the actual statements and situations that need to be confronted and adjusted, and none of it was baseless speculation.

6) I sent in another post to CNRG to explain the situation to other subscribers, and was also rejected by the same moderator. The moderator sent me an email that seemed very confused: at one point, she apologized for skimming's post and not noticing his/her attack on me (which is strange, because his/her post contained no information or opinion whatsoever except for the attack), and yet in the end she maintained that there was no mistake on the part of the moderator.

7) Then the moderator suggested that I need to understand how the list is run, describing how she is a volunteer who spends many hours moderating this list. Not to disrespect the work done by her and the other moderator, this again shows the pervasiveness of this tendency to use one's intention or honest effort as a way to absolve accountability.

8) It is important that we make distinctions between personal attacks that are based on speculation or unsupported allegations or biases, and criticisms directed toward specific comments or actions that are racist, sexist, homophobic, and yes, anti-youth. I do not expect the moderators to weed out every statement that is offensive or oppressive, but I expect them to allow other participants to confront any such comments if they appear on this list.

Emi Koyama

-- * Putting the Emi back in Feminism since 1975.

Forum: CNRG list
Date: 06/12/2002

Okay, folks: because several people (including the former Executive Director of Phoenix Rising, the parent organization of SMYRC during her tenure) have asked to put an end to this discussion, and also because I've already made my points as clear as I could make it, I'll make these final comments and observations and drop the topic for now.

1) As an adult ally who is committed to the self-determination and self-representation of the youth, by the youth, I believe that it is my responsibility to challenge comments and actions by other adults that, regardless of their intentions, reinforce paternalism directed toward them. If I failed to interrupt the original public statement coming from SMYRC, which I viewed as anti-youth, I would be complicit in its disregard of the centrality of youth is youth organizing.

2) It is possible that I was too quick to determine the original statement as "anti-youth," or that the particular way I chose to interrupt it was not effective. Here, I would like to leave the judgment to the youth themselves (not that all youth think the same way, of course), rather than some former Executive Director or parent or anonymous AOL user who just sent me a nasty email privately.

3) When I criticized a couple of statements coming from an adult SMYRC staffer as anthithetical to the empowerment of youth, I was immediately accused by some of attacking SMYRC as a whole or not understanding/appreciating their work enough. Not only are those characterizations false, they reproduce a common initial reaction whenever someone challenges any progressive movement on their problems: feminists who criticized sexism within the New Left movements, women of color who criticized racism within the feminist movement, trans activists who criticized transphobia within the queer movement, etc. We need to recognize and move beyond this pattern.

4) The reaction expressed by some, "please stop this discussion because this is not the appropriate space to discuss your grievances" is also one of the common ways the privileged group respond when others challenge them.

5) Thank you and congratulations to everybody who is working to save the funding for SMYRC.

Emi Koyama

-- * Putting the Emi back in Feminism since 1975.