On Aug. 9, a letter to the editor written by Mr. Rance Brode was published. This letter was addressed to the “young people” of Owego protesting in front of the courthouse, and contained a patronizing tirade of assumptions disguised as questions.
While I know nothing can change Mr. Brode’s made up mind (nobody who writes a letter like that actually wants answers to their questions in lieu of acquiescence), I am compelled to speak to the Owego community about the use of the term “young people”.
“Young people” has become a catch-all phrase for those who have yet to reach the ever-moving goalpost of validity that is apparently brought about by visible age. Its intended use, both in Mr. Brode’s letter and in politics at large, is a silencing tactic. Its message is clear: you are too young for your voice to matter, sit down and be quiet. It is invalidation through infantilization.
But who are the “young people” Mr. Brode refers to in his letter? Is it the high school student activist, utilizing technology to amplify concerns for their future, or is it the millennial parent, marching for the lives of their brown and black children? Or is it just meant for me, because I’m protesting in a small town to raise awareness about the police brutality occurring nationwide, and that makes Mr. Brode, and people who feel similarly to him, uncomfortable?
I will be 30 years old this winter. I graduated high school with Mr. Brode’s daughter (we even played in the same jazz band). I am a homeowner, a college graduate, fully employed, and I pay taxes. I even have a few gray hairs! How old do I have to be for my concerns and values to be valid?
I think I have an answer: No amount of age or life experience will be enough to validate my claims, so long as those claims are in conflict with Mr. Brode’s worldview. I implore the people of Owego to consider this perspective before dismissing a movement or idea based on the age of those supporting it.
Lastly, I would like to correct Mr. Brode’s inaccurate account of our demographics. There is a broad range of townspeople that support our protests, including some silver-haired civilians from the First Presbyterian Union Church congregation as well as candidate for New York State’s 124th Assembly District, Mr. Randy Reid.