Barbie is the movie I needed my 15-year-old son to see this summer. The kid has his learner’s permit for driving, medalled in a couple of swim events at a regional meet, recently went on his first date, and soon will be embarking on his sophomore year in high school.
He’s on his way to becoming Ken on Venice Beach (as played by Ryan Gosling).
As his 51-year-old mother, I’m painfully aware that my son is merely six years away from having more rights in America than I do. He will soon obtain a driver’s license, and later get a voter’s registration. Due to the generosity of his grandparents and our ability to save money, he has a modest college fund.
Once he reaches the age when he can legally consume alcohol and has a college degree, he might arrive on a relatively level playing field with Gosling (minus the fame and the eight-pack abs). He will have bodily autonomy — a privilege I lost in June 2022 when six Supreme Court justices voted to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Undoubtedly, those who seek to uphold the current status quo in American society and applaud the SCOTUS decision will label my actions “indoctrination” and “woke.” I’ll happily admit it: They are. To borrow an African proverb, “If the wise elders of the village don’t teach the children, the village idiots will certainly do so.”
I’ve been inoculating my son against hate for years. On the morning of Nov. 9, 2016, my then eight-year-old son found me sobbing on our family room couch in a suburb outside Washington, D.C.
Right then and there, I gave him a gargantuan task that amounted to “don’t sit by and let people bully others.” I implored him to use his privilege to help. It was a huge ask and perhaps an inappropriate burden for a kid that age, but I’d already put some scaffold in place.
Up to that point, I’d tried to model this behaviour by doing whatever I could ― and using my own privileges ― to help those around me. I drove an immigrant mother to a local community college for classes and helped her with English.As a family, we participated in Help the Homeless walks through our local community service organisation. For years, we purchased backpacks for kids in transitional housing each August and packed Thanksgiving boxes with groceries and gift cards for those less fortunate each November.
We visited a mosque in Virginia for its open house at a time when backlash against Muslims was heating up again. During Donald Trump’s presidency, I advocated on Capitol Hill for increasing immigration quotas for refugees, especially for Afghans and others who had assisted U.S. troops in exchange for our protection.