Justin Bieber, Trayvon Martin, and the Racial Implications of Being a “Just a Kid”

Justin Bieber is “just a kid,” but are his African-American peers?

Early yesterday morning, pop star Justin Bieber was arrested for driving under the influence. After swerving recklessly around the world for the past few months, the 19-year-old finally did what the public expected him to do: crash.

When child stars “go bad,” a certain class of apologist emerges, explaining away the stars’ actions as the folly of youth. Bieber is no different. He is just a kidsympathetic voices cluck.

My mother used to say to me, with all seriousness, “Teenagers are stupid.” This never failed to wound my adolescent spirit, but I didn’t realize then that her degree in Biology gave her the scientific basis for her statement. The prefrontal cortex in humans, the part of the brain that regulates maturity, does not fully develop until age 25. That means, as in Bieber’s case, we do expect a measure of immaturity from young adults at age 18 or 19. So, we say they’re “just kids being kids.”

It is both explanation and excuse. Still, our selective use of that phrase makes me think deeply about whom we give passes to in this country.

When I saw Bieber’s grinning mug(shot) yesterday and read about how he’s “just a kid,” I thought immediately of Trayvon Martin. Why didn’t America consider Trayvon Martin just a kid? Why doesn’t America see black boys as children, but as criminals? 

Read more at Truly Tafakari!

7 thoughts on “Justin Bieber, Trayvon Martin, and the Racial Implications of Being a “Just a Kid”

  1. Justin Beiber is talented within his field and others at his age have done worse. Whitney Houston was a crack head. R.Kelly liked to pee on people. Black boys will stop being treated like criminals when they stop shooting each other. The UK equivalent would be stabbing each other. I don’t mean to offend but its tru no.

  2. True but most average teen boys in North America don’t. They’re just jealous of him, especially when their crushes or girlfriends liking him better than they are.

  3. Well, basically, most teenage boys wanted him to crash his car, from what I’ve been seeing because they’re very jealous of him like any other attractive male celebrity who they think of as “himbos”, just because teenage girls like him and want one thing from him.

  4. Wow! With nearly all the media focusing on Justin’s hair, pimples or hook-ups, I’m glad to come across someone who dares to ask painful yet necessary questions. I don’t have an answer, but I do hope more people will think about this.

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