On Tuesday, TIME released their annual list of the most influential teens of 2015. The roundup celebrates wildly talented young people who are entrepreneurs, scientists, social media superstars and activists. They’re slaying the game. It’s rare for teens and their accomplishments to be recognized and I was personally excited to see that two-thirds of the honorees were young girls. That’s a big deal.
What I wasn’t excited to see was an article a friend had tweeted to me, titled “I Could Defeat At Least Eight Of This Year's Most Influential Teens.” When I headed over to The Concourse this morning, Deadspin’s culture and food site, I was weary because unfortunately, dudes writing about teens on the Internet typically tends to leave a sour taste in my mouth.
I wasn’t disappointed.
“They’re all wonderful, inspirational kids,” the author writes of the honorees. “After looking through the names, I’ve determined that in a fight, I could kick the asses of at least eight of these teens before they beat me.” He continues, “The breakdown of the list is 10 boys, 20 girls, so I only have 10 teens to choose from, because I’m not going to hypothetically beat up a girl teen. Out of those 10, with no weapons involved, I could beat up eight.” Oh. The writer then goes on to say how he would go about beating up each of the young men featured on the list.
“Ahmed, my man. It sucks that you’re moving to Qatar, but if I had no other choice, I’d destroy you,” he says. “Your gizmos wouldn’t save you in the cage.”
My first question is, what does “after looking through the names” supposed to mean? Is it easier to kick the ass of a kid named Ahmed Mohamed or Moziah Bridges or Kim Kataguiri? Please explain.
My second question is, what if we replaced the word “teens” with “women” each time it was mentioned in the article? Would it still be funny? Would it still have been published? Something tells me probably not.
Here’s the thing. If it were a tweet, I might've rolled my eyes and ignored it. But it’s different to dedicate an entire platform to joke about brutalizing kids. It’s just gross.
Aside from the piece just being in poor taste, the timing doesn’t help either. You might have seen the viral video of a high school student being thrown to the ground like a rag doll in her classroom by a police officer. It’s horrifying and upsetting to watch. It made me feel sick. I don’t care what she did or didn’t do because it’s not important. All you need to know is that it shouldn’t have happened.
It's worth pointing out that what occurred at Spring Valley High School is indicative of a greater national issue with harmful implications. Students are increasingly being arrested for things that aren't actually crimes, but rather, broken school rules with those of color making up 31% of students arrested in school. What's equally troubling is that for many of these students, they discontinue their education.
I get that The Concourse piece is satire. But these are kids. And despite so-called “entitled” celebrities (or businesswomen, as I’d like to call them) like Kendall and Kylie Jenner being honored on the list, many of them have had to overcome adversity to be included. When we joke about violence and beating up teens, it makes the issue seem trivial, when in reality, it’s something that’s happening every day. By grown men. In school classrooms. By police officers who are supposed to protect them -- not hurl them around.
I think we owe TIME’s most influential teens of 2015 -- including the ones who weren’t featured on that list -- more than that.