Why Are Privileged Children Being Exposed To Violence and Alcohol in School?

If exposure to violence is bad for child development, then why are public schools for the privileged exposing well off kids to violence.

Why Are Privileged Children Being Exposed To Violence and Alcohol in School?
Photo by Ivandrei Pretorius from Pexels

I went to my partner’s daughter’s high school play Friday night. She’s in drama, and she’s all in. She’s been into drama since the middle school, and from my understanding it’s one of those things she’s been into for sometime. She loves writing, and wants to be one day be Shonda Rhimes. Cool I say. I’m all for telling good, quality stories told by great writers.

My partner’s daughter is the only Black kid in her drama class, and let’s just say she’s the typical teen who attends “good schools” with upper middle class and wealthy White people. Smart, well-spoken, exposed to too much adult shit too early in life, and often too adult for my liking. If you think privileged adults are something, trying being around privileged kids.

With these kids, there is no innocence. Life doesn’t get the opportunity to reveal itself slowly, the way we did when we were kids. The kids at this school are exposed to everything, and I do mean everything. So much so, we often have to stop the child from discussing inappropriate topics in front of her younger siblings.

Topics only parents should be discussing with their children about things adults are usually exposed to.

My partner’s daughter also curses a lot in casual conversations which lets me know she probably does far more than that when she’s with her White friends. I don’t tolerate it and I nip it in the bud immediately. She may go to school with White kids and live in an upper-middle class community, but she’s Black. She shall soon learn she can’t do what her White girlfriends can do or say and get away with it in the real world. Not in the deep South anyway.

Getting a good education comes with some other baggage the well-to-do people in the world tend to dismiss, like the stealing of a child’s innocence. Privileged White and upper-middle class parents of color treat their kids like adults too soon. These children also begin abusing substances at an earlier age because of the lack of oversight and access to cash.

Privileged children are exposed to violence and adult situations too early, and far too often, even in public schools which I find fascinating.

The High School Drama Showcase I Almost Walked Out Of

School showcase program loaded with inappropriate material. Photo: Author

The high school showcase given by the privileged children at the privileged high school I attended consisted of about 20 different acts. These acts were performed by well White and White-Hispanic children. My partner’s daughter was the Black child in the showcase.

While the children were extremely talented, I was shocked at the selections the drama instructor allowed them to perform. All but maybe three scenes had profanity, adult situations, graphic sexual conversations, sexual matter, alcohol consumption (literally high school kids reenacting wine consumption in a taxi and being drunk on a street), and so many other adult situations for school aged kids that I found utterly disturbing.

Why would a public school allow developing minds to perform such dark, unnecessary adult situation pieces for parents and families?

School showcase program loaded with inappropriate material. Photo: Author

The Showcase of Violence and Adult Situations

The first scene set the tone for the entire night for me. I wasn’t expecting such inappropriateness from young children, but clearly it’s my culture. All the White and Hispanic parents were cheering for the kids after each presentation. Dad’s were whistling in full praise of the adult content in the scenes, and I just got the impression the parents audience were accustomed to the subject matter covered. It was so weird to me. Before each group of students began their pieces, they would make a disclaimer about the adult nature of the pieces, suggesting those offended leave the room without really giving those offended time to do so.

Who wants to be that person seen exiting the show letting the world know they are offended? Even the way the offers were framed were smug and reeked of privilege. It was clear the children did not understand the gravity of what they were performing. Or maybe they simply didn’t care, because they are privileged.

Why are high school kids presenting anything to adults in a drama class that’s possibly so offensive parents and young siblings/guests would need to be given an out? Poor kids would never be allowed to act in such a way without being kicked out of school or receiving some sort of disciplinary action, but rich and privileged kids, they get passes and privileges most kids could never imagine. Every scene had curse words. Why would young children need to do 20 scenes which all contained some form of vulgarity and foul language? What is wrong with the drama instructor?

I could never imagine in my high school drama class at my all Black school discussing penises in front of a group of Black parents (including my own). My mom would still be talking about how embarrassed she was for both of us today and I’m almost 50-years old. I would have suggested we take into consideration the feelings, beliefs, cultures, and religions of attendees who are also taxpayers funding the program. Apparently many privileged White and White passing people don’t have any such concerns. Anything goes and it was demonstrated to time and time again during the showcase by the things these privileged children said and did in their acts. As we went down the list, I got more nauseous. I had to zone out to keep from leaving.

I was so disappointed. I wanted to go sit in the car, but I stayed so not to offend my partner’s daughter. I don’t expose my own brain to unnecessary violence because I understand how our bodies absorb what we see, internalizing it. I have no idea why people are so casual these days with teenage exposure to violence.

No one in the auditorium had any concerns about the lack of appropriateness except my partner and I, the only two Black women in the audience. It’s a cultural thing I suppose. As soon as the showcase was over, I left. I didn’t want to stay around with my shocked, suck face pretending to be pleased over spending my ten bucks for inappropriate adult content acted out by privileged children. I didn’t want to hear the high-pitched shriek’s of the little privileged kids talking about how great they were, nor did I want to steal anyone’s joy. I didn’t want to observe any more of the hypocrisy of how we raise our children.

It’s easy for me now to see how we have could have a Sandy Hook, a Columbine or Parkland mass school shooting. The privileged view their children and their access/exposure to violence differently than poor, Black folks, and apparently even researchers. Privileged people in privileged settings have normalized violence and adult situations for privileged children.

Privileged Children Are Being Taught Violence Differently

Why are children being exposed to so much unnecessary violence, sexuality, and substance abuse when studies have shown children who were exposed to one type of violence, both in the past year and over their lifetimes, had a far greater risk of experiencing other types of violence? Maybe it’s because those studies aren’t done on privileged children, just poor ones and minorities. Attending a school play exposed me to how upper middle-class White families and families of color risk their child’s mental and physical well-being for the sake of a “good” education, in a “good” school, and in a “good” community.

Clearly “good” is subjective.

I wondered if these same families attended an urban school drama showcase in an rundown urban community and watched bunches of poor Black and Brown kids in the same age range school perform the dramatizations from the showcase would they have the same attitudes about those children’s exposure to violence? They probably would not is my bet.

Society is always judges Black and Brown children more harshly.

Privileged parents and the privileged children in the play above would surely say the Black and Brown children’s exposure to violence and adult situations are likely indicators of risky youth behavior and future exposure to violence without thinking about how they are exposed to violence differently. We need to ask ourselves why isn’t the same rationale and judgement applied to privileged children and families, and why aren’t we questioning the children rearing of White and privileged households?

Because, privilege of course.

Rich children and the schools they attend are helping to normalize violence, and it’s barely discussed, but poor children and Black children in poor schools and in poor school districts get a very different message. The hypocrisy of it all is that the well-to-do parents have not considered these scenes in the showcase as exposure to violence. To well off households, violence looks different. If the violence isn’t physically impacting them, it’s not real and it doesn’t matter. The studies on children and violence are for other people’s children, not theirs.

What’s more shocking to me is that the kids in the school showcase are from the same school district where the Parkland High School shooting took place nearly two years ago. The kids performed in the same school district where kids impacted by those shootings committed suicide due to the violence and trauma they’ve experienced and the guilt associated with living. Rich people see violence differently, just like they see Black children differently. Rich folks have the privilege of acting out violence without repercussions.

In Conclusion

I’ve said it once, and I will say it again, we need to talk more about the parenting styles and skills of White parents and privileged ones. We’re missing generations of kids being exposed to violence because the people conducting the studies are privileged and believe their exposure to violence and adult situations is normal.

If exposure to violence, drugs, and alcohol is bad for Black children, Brown children, and poor children, then it should be bad for privileged children too. Let’s judge all parents the same and protect all children the same.

It’s our jobs to be concerned about all children and to protect every child, regardless of socioeconomic status, from being exposed to violence too soon and too often. Some privileged child somewhere in America is being groomed as we speak to be the next mass school shooter right in his or her public school and home. Data likely understates children’s actual exposure to violence, because they rely on family members and schools to report incidents, some of which may be undisclosed, minimized, or not recalled. The way the privileged sees (or doesn’t see) violence matters.

The minimization of privileged children’s exposure to violence, drugs, and alcohol needs to be examined. Your child’s life may depend on it. We all need to monitor what our schools are offering our children. Children comfortable with violence become adults comfortable with violence. It’s time we connect the dots.

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