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.
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?
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