My Truth: Youth v. Elderly–Not the Fight We Need to Have

By Cheryl Smith

Last week, I heard someone say that old folks need to move out of the way and let the young folks take over. That statement was probably made in the same conversation when someone was explaining why we shouldn’t vote for someone just because they are Black. Then I was watching reruns of the CBS hit show, Blue Bloods, starring Magnum PI, and a district attorney asked a Black juror did he vote to acquit because the defendant was Black. The juror’s response was epic, “Did the other jurors (all-White) vote guilty because the defendant was Black?” Perspective is key, just as perception is! Clearly we have an issue with focusing on the real issues.

Which brings me to my truth.

At some point in my life, I realized it was easier and more logical to build together than work separately. Fortunately for me, the lesson came early. At a young age, books became my friend. I remember reading, and I paraphrase Malcolm X, who said we must choose issues over individuals; that when we focus on personalities, our communities suffer because the issues are not addressed. I see what happens as year after year the focus is on personalities. I also see what happens when your energy and resources are splintered and organization is not your focus. Instead of pooling resources and collaborating with others with similar goals and missions; it seems easier to fight close to home, to actually fight the weaker target, instead of going after the larger ones.

The young fight the old, degreed attack the lesser-educated, and yes, men against women; all with the help of the larger target that we seem too distracted to target. The issues affecting society need all hands on deck. To the person who says the elderly should get out of the way; well, I know many elderly that I would love to have on my side in any struggle. Just last week Rev. C.T. Vivian died at 95 and Congressman John Lewis (D-GA) at 80. When Dick Gregory died, he was still going strong at 84. Businessman Comer Cottrell was 82. Rev. Joseph Lowery was 98. At her passing, the dynamic Dr. Dorothy Irene Height was 98, Dr. Maya Angelou was 86, Mrs. Helen Lowery was 88, Mrs. Coretta Scott King was 78, Dr. Betty Shabazz was 61 and educator Dr. Ada Williams was 84. If I had to choose a team!

And on the flip side, I’d rather have Sandra Bland who was murdered at 28, the 33-year-old Nipsey Hussle, 25-year-old 2Pac who was realizing the importance of organizing, or 19-year-old Oluwatoyin Salau. Then, too there are the elderly and young who get up every day and all they do is exist—watching TV, playing video games, smoking, drinking, eating, talking loud, inhaling, exhaling… Sadly we have to take the good with the bad. If folks were discarded based on their contributions to society, where would you line up? If you were a strong soldier in your early years, like the aforementioned, or the likes of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would you want to be cast aside because you got older, or would you hope that someone kept you engaged? I get energized and remain hopeful because of the younger soldiers and older warriors who stay focused. We have to find ways to co-exist and put our resources to work, instead of fighting one another. Or, we’ll just continue to lose.

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