The Kid Makes Her Point

This morning, unbeknownst to me, my daughter decided that she needed to make her views about the Eric Garner grand jury decision known to the folks at her school, so she dressed in black for mourning and wrote the words “ICANTBREATHE” on her arms. And then off she went to school, here in rural, conservative Bradford, Ohio.

Where, as it happens, she encountered no major pushback for her political speech. Some of the kids asked her about what the words meant and at least one of the teachers commented that of all the kids in the school, she would be the one to make a protest. But in terms of her getting crap for it, nope. Which speaks well of the little rural conservative town in which we live, and the people with whom my daughter goes to school, students and faculty both.

(It may also say something about the Garner case, in that I’ve seen concerns about it from all sides of the political spectrum. I’m not going to go deeply into that at the moment, however.)

As a parent it’s very interesting to watch my child’s developing political and social thinking on all sorts of topics. Some of her thinking she inherits from me and her mother, obviously. But there’s a whole side of her thinking that comes from her own view of the world and her own take on various subjects. It’s a reminder that children surely and inexorably become their own people. I’m proud of my kid that she’s thinking about things outside of her immediate self-interest, and that she’s willing to deal with potential flack for those thoughts.

She’s not always going to get it “right” — but then I don’t always get it right, either, and I’ve got 30 years on her. But she’s finding her voice and remembering to listen. I’m very happy about both.

61 thoughts on “The Kid Makes Her Point

  1. A couple of notes here:

    1. This is not meant to be a comment thread to generally discuss the Eric Garner situation; I’m focused specifically on how it is representative of my daughter’s growing social awareness of the world. I understand there will be a wide temptation to talk about it generally (and Mike Brown/Tamir Rice/Etc), so this me letting you know I will likely rein you all in if I think we’re going too far afield.

    2. I’m talking about my kid. Remember that you’ll possibly be talking about my kid, too. Remember that parents do not take kindly with people who talk crap about their kids. I will sooooo Mallet the shit out of you if you do. I’m not even a little objective about this; expect me to have an itchy trigger finger on this one.

  2. Thanks for sharing. Proud of your kid and proud of my kid who was out at the local protest this evening. I have hope for this generation….

  3. I salute Athena for both her willingness to take up causes, and her strength in committing to them. And I hope she challenged some of her fellow students to think more deeply about their world.

  4. 1) OMG, she looks SO much like Krissy, I thought you had posted the wrong pic. 2) Go, go, Athena! I’m so proud of her for standing up for what she believes! What a great kid.

  5. “Some of the kids asked her about what the words meant and at least one of the teachers commented that of all the kids in the school, she would be the one to make a protest.”

    I do hope that was meant as a compliment. And I hope that even if it wasn’t, she took it as one. Because it *is* a compliment, even if it’s not meant that way. Maybe *especially* if it’s not meant that way.

  6. I’m heading to sleep and leaving the comments on. On the off chance a troll wanders by and leaves his spoor, do not engage with it, I’ll clean it up in the morning.

  7. That’s great she feels strongly about this and is willing to publicly make her point. I find it very admirable as I would have been way too shy/anxious at school!

  8. 1) Athena is awesome. 2) At least part of the reason she didn’t get push back is because she’s white. If a black kid had done it, I doubt calm would have been the reaction of the school. Simply put, she’s a white girl, and so she’s considered to be non-threatening and a “good kid” until proven otherwise. Whereas a protesting black kid is considered to be very threatening and not a “good kid” until proven otherwise (in some areas considered not a possible thing.) And that’s the whole root of the problem.

    Which is not to lessen Athena’s achievement. She took a risk. And she was lucky to have parents backing her. White parents, who will be listened to by the school. But the marchers and the die ins and the #AliveWhileBlack and #CrimingWhileWhite feeds point out a very simple issue — we have enormous biases towards the imaginary social racial categories we have drummed up, and those biases put black and brown lives at considerable risk on a daily basis.

    The law matters. Those who enforce the law have power. Those who make the laws matter. And your vote on those people deeply matters, which is why so many are working so hard to change laws so that fewer can vote. It’s wonderful that Athena is speaking out on the issue. My daughter has been doing the same in the on-going protests across the country. I’m sure it made an impression and made some other kids think. I hope for a time when black teens can do so too without risking getting shot.

  9. It’s worrying and beautiful when kids find their own voice. It’s precious and important and sometimes I have to fight the temptation to “correct” the views that seem to me to be “not right”. Sometimes we discuss, we talk, we are of different opinion. It’s not so easy to discuss with teenagers. But it’s amazing and I love it when I see that as you say, they begin to “think outside of their immediate self-interest”, as well as “to listen”.

  10. My daughter is five and I hope that she grows to be as thoughtful and empathetic as Athena. It seems she has a good handle on social justice.

    The world needs more Athenas.

  11. It is a great feeling of accomplishment when your children start making their own decisions about what kind of world they want to live in. As a father, who’s daughter will be voting for the first time in 2016, it has been awesome to see her talk about current events and ask questions in order to form her own opinion.

    Too many people follow the herd, I’m determined that my children will think for themselves and act on their own conscience.

  12. I’m super impressed that the lettering’s good on both arms, unless mom or dad helped. But I figured she was just that awesome.

    I don’t think I had a political/social consciousness at that age, so go her.

  13. Thanks for taking the risk and sharing this with us. Athena gives us hope–the upcoming generation (can’t remember their moniker at the moment, Generation ZZ?) is *not* a bunch of selfish, screen-addicted, sheep. You should consider having 20 or 30 more children; the Scalzi nature-nurture is tops.

  14. Awesome kid, awesome parents – definitely a win/win.

    I completely understand your pride in your daughter, Mr. Scalzi. My own two offspring are in their early 30s, and I have experienced the same kind of profound satisfaction over the past couple of decades as I’ve watched them develop their views and express their voices. Both are well-informed and articulate about regional, national and international issues; both of them have participated at various times in protest actions for causes about which they feel strongly; and both vote in every election that is held.

    Athena’s decision to be a voice for the voiceless provides a glimpse of the beautiful, powerful, activist adult that I suspect she will become, and that is truly one of the most joyful parenting experiences you’ll ever have. There’ll be others, of course, but this is one that I suspect will stand out as a major highlight.

    Brava, Athena!

  15. I’m pleased to see that Athena pointed out that it *is* about race in the accompanying tweet. The “AllLivesMatter” hashtag really misses the point that it’s *black* lives which are being lost. To misquote Animal Farm, “All pigs are equal … but some pigs are more equal than others”.

    As someone who was raised in the comforting fug of the “End of History”, who came to the awareness that politics and current events were A Thing in the wake of 9/11, and who then had no idea what to do about it, it pleases me to see younger and bolder people than me standing up for what’s right. Go forth and be excellent, Athena!

  16. After reading so much vitriol on my Facebook feed about this case and others, this post is a little restoration of my faith in humanity. I wish I was that aware and informed and brave when I was her age.

  17. Yeah, I had a similar moment recently with my daughter, who is 17. She’s become/becoming her own person, influenced by us, but not us. She has her own take on the world and I try to encourage it. On Thanksgiving, my sister-in-law made a comment about Ferguson…my daughter was vehemently opposed on the other side and was not shy about it. I was both impressed and pleased, though I didn’t make much of saying so. She understood how to state her belief and then leave it at that, which also pleased me (we’ve pretty much made it clear to our in-laws that family gatherings should be about family and the only arguments we care to hear are sports-related; if you want to talk about abortion rights at Easter Dinner, that’s our cue to grab our kids and leave…which we have done and which sent a clear message to QUIT IT).

  18. Just curious, was Athena wearing some dark eyeliner, or is that just the effect of an overcast day in SW Ohio, along with a B&W filter? It’s quite effective, either way. It gives off a dark & angry look, and given the nature of her protest, I’m sure that’s precisely what she’s going for. Great job, Athena!!

  19. Hugh57:

    She’s not wearing makeup, that’s me fiddling with levels on the RAW file in Photoshop. As a photographer I’m pretty pleased with it. There’s another one I took at the same time here which I also like.

  20. I was going to comment on the photo as well. I love it, especially how her fingers frame her eyes. It’s very powerful!

  21. She rocks! My son is 22 now but one of my favourite parts of parenting a teen was how passionate they get as they start finding their voice and engaging with the world. It was an interesting process to watch.

  22. I follow her on my public twitter account, and have been very impressed with her. I mentioned in a tweet that between her and my niece, who is about the same age, I have hope for what their generation will make of the world.

  23. You’ve both done an amazing job with your girl. Sadly, we still live in an age where voicing what you believe in as a woman, is often met with a special kind of misogynistic hater. I hope you teach her well how to handle those kind of responses. I’ll also hope for a time when you don’t have to.

  24. Every time someone complains about how this next generation is going to be fat and lazy screen slaves I point out how much passion and advocacy they show. Theirs is a generation that really sees the world as all connected and they do not seem to be willing to put up with old frameworks. Congrats to Athena and I love her confidence in doing so without parental involvement. That is one cool kid. I can’t wait until my kids can be just like her.

  25. My senior year in high school, we had a walk out over something. Two-thirds of the school emptied out into the teacher’s parking lot. The “leaders” (which somehow included me) were invited to talk to the principal about it. We sat down in his conference room. He came in and eyed me. With a tone of exhaustion, he said “Why did I know you were involved in this, Joe Hass?”

    From a long-time “troublemaker”: well played, Ms Scalzi. VERY well played.

  26. Good for Athena. I think it is a positive sign when teenagers begin to be concerned about other people without prodding from parents or teachers.

    Also, when I first glanced at the photograph, I thought you had posted a pic of Lorde (the singer).

  27. Well done Athena. And also well done to you and the missus for raising a well informed and thoughtful young woman.

  28. Dear John,

    Seriously good job on the photograph. Dunno if you were consciously after it, but you mailed the 60’s photojournalism look pretty neatly. Most appropriate to the subject.

    Who rocks, not so by-the-way.

    pax / Ctein

  29. When my daughter was a sophomore in college she spent a semester in London. One morning I went to the New York Times to read about a protest for Tibet at the Chinese embassy which the police had broken up, making arrests, and as I gazed at the picture I suddenly realized one of the protestors was my daughter. Quite a shock (as I quickly called up to see if she had been arrested! which she had not)–but man, was I ever proud of her. I congratulate you on a daughter to be proud of as well.

  30. That picture is very, very good. I really like it. B&W is excellent for conveying certain moods, and you really capitalized on that.

    And let me also add my congratulations, as so many above have, to you for gracing humanity with a new person who will help improve it as opposed to being a burden on it, and to Athena for being who she is and doing it so well.

  31. Conservatives aren’t as bad as liberals make us out to be… not surprised her school didn’t really care about this. In general schools only stop this stuff if it gets to be a distraction.

    Very good photo. The black and white really works for this one.

  32. What you – and more importantly, she – are missing is that while criticism of big-city police is one thing, sticking one’s neck out to criticize police in general in a small town – and more importantly, getting a reputation as being the sort of person to do so – is the sort of thing that has a very high risk of swinging around and biting you in the ass.

    Not because your local police are necessarily bad, not because criticism of police in and of itself is bad, not because there was anything reasonable whatsoever about what happened to Garner, but because your local police are human beings, entrusted with perhaps more power than they should have, and being so, will make note of who doesn’t like them, and possibly act – or fail to act – on that basis at a time that would be damned inconvenient for you, or her. That’s a phenomenon that cuts right across ideological lines.

    As a father, it was and is your responsibility to be aware of this, to make sure your child was and is aware of it, and to help her avoid creating crap for herself she just doesn’t need. Being aware of it, if she then wants to create the crap anyway, knowing the potential cost? Fine, that’s adulthood. I’ve seen no indication here that she has such knowledge.

  33. Rollory:

    Dude, you have not the slightest idea what it is you are talking about, as regards anything in this little town of mine, or, for that matter, the people who are part of our local law enforcement. I suggest you don’t attempt that again.

    But as a general attempt at concern trolling, I give you a solid “C.”

  34. Being aware of it, if she then wants to create the crap anyway, knowing the potential cost?

    Kind of gave the game away with that word choice, Rollory.

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