From Ferguson to Gaza, young people are marginalized everywhere

The story of Ferguson is a bitter reminder of the marginalization of young people everywhere.

Yara al-Wazir

Published: Updated:

A grand jury deliberated the fate of Michael Brown’s killer this week, and decided not to indict him. Michael Brown was an unarmed black teenager who was shot dead following an altercation for jaywalking with a member of the justice system, a police officer.

The repercussions of the death were protests in over a dozen cities in the United States. This story is a bitter reminder of the marginalization of young people everywhere.

From Ferguson to Gaza, young people are told how to react by a system that is out of touch with its own actions. Incubating young people in a mentality that they account to very little, but can be held accountable for an awful lot, breeds anger and hatred for the system, a testament by the likes of Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin in the United States, and Mohammad al-Durra and thousands of others in Gaza.

When the system is racist, can we blame the people?

I believe that all people are inherently born good; it is the system in which they are nurtured that shapes their actions. When a system is segregated, be it by the color of ones skin or the color of their passport, so are the people. When 49 percent of text in Israeli textbooks refers to Palestinians and Arabs negatively, whom do we blame for the culture of hate: the children, who will grow to be conscripted into the army, for hating, or the system that taught the children to hate? It creates a mentality of “us versus them,” which breeds violence.

The same rings true in the United States: when the media showcases young black men as negatively as it does in 30 Rock, it creates a negative stereotype associated with young black men. Ultimately, if young America embraced black people as much as it embraced black culture, Michael Brown may still be alive today.

Terminology can be deadly

In the police officer’s testimony, there was violent terminology such as “charged” at him with an “intense aggressive face.” Terminology can kill humanity, emotion, feelings, sanity, and sadly, terminology can kill young people like Michael Brown. The same is true for issues back home, the terminology used to describe Arabs in Israeli textbooks is damning.

The same is true for both sides of the conflict; terminology exercised is often aggressive, which forces the readers to collide and take sides, rather than merge and agree on a constructive solution.

Justice can still be served, just not in Palestine

The difference is that although Michael Brown’s killer will not face criminal charges, he is still under investigation pending civil charges that can be brought against him, including manslaughter and murder. The American justice system isn’t quite broken,only limping, but at least it exists. When 17 bullets were emptied by an Israeli soldier into the body of Iman al-Hams, the young 13-year old Palestinian girl, a judge justified the action, claiming that the soldier needed to “confirm the kill.” Between 500-700 young Palestinians are annually detained in Israeli prisons, 98 percent of whom are not informed of the charges against them, which could be as simple as throwing rocks. Like minorities in the United States, Palestinian children suffer from an obscenely high conviction rate of 99.74 percent.

A change in terminology, in the education system, and, more importantly, in the system as a whole is what young people need. Young Arabs and young black Americans need to be told that their voices are heard, and although the system is broken now, there is no reason why it can’t be fixed. But first, we must acknowledge that we need to change our ways, if we ever want to expect either the system to change or young peoples’ mentalities to change.


Yara al Wazir is a humanitarian activist. She is the founder of The Green Initiative ME and a developing partner of Sharek Stories. She can be followed and contacted on twitter @YaraWazir

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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