Socialist Worker

Teenagers interviewed: ‘Adults always think the worst of you’

Shereen, Aisha and Zita are 13 years old and live in Manor Park in east London. They spoke to Siân Ruddick

Issue No. 2172

What are your experiences of adults?

Aisha: I think adults stereotype young people. They think that because we’re young we’re out to cause trouble.

When they see us in big groups they get scared of us – but they wouldn’t get scared of older people doing that. They cross the road to get away from us.

Zita: It makes you feel upset when people are always putting you down and thinking the worst of you when you know you can achieve much more than what they think.

Aisha: It’s quite depressing to know what people think about us. It’s not good to know that people look at you and think, “This person is going to come over and slap me and put it on YouTube” or something.

They make you feel like a bad person. It’s not a nice feeling, to be looked at like that.

Shereen: I think a lot of older people think that we don’t deserve respect.

Are there enough facilities for young people in your area?

Aisha: Some adults complain that we’re on the streets but they don’t help find a solution or communicate with us.

We haven’t been provided with a proper place to play, so we just have to make use of the space that we’ve got.

Shereen: There isn’t anything to do round here. The football cage is the only place you can go and hang out but it’s being knocked down because they say that people don’t want to live near it. There doesn’t seem to be any plan that looks at what we need.

This is meant to be the Olympic borough, but we have swing frames that had swings on them three years ago and still haven’t been fixed.

They’re spending billions on one Olympic stadium but we probably won’t get to use it. It’ll probably be too expensive.

Aisha: They say this is a needy community, but we don’t get what we need. We don’t always want to be in the house, we want to be out and socialise with our friends.

What do you think about how the media treat young people?

Shereen: The media always pick up on the negative. The press seem to think that we’ve got something to hide and that young people must all be bad.

They never show praise. There are a lot of good things happening in the area – football clubs for boys and girls that do well, but it’s never in the news.

They don’t run headlines about people using facilities, but if someone gets stabbed they run with that.

What do you think about the police?

Zita: I think the police play a negative role sometimes. They’re always complaining about young people and knife crime but they don’t help change.

Aisha: The police harass us. You can’t be in a group of black people walking down the street without the police searching us, asking us questions or just giving us dirty looks.

It’s a stereotype towards black people, but some white people get it too. The police assume we’re going to do something bad.

When I’ve seen fights round here I have never seen the police or a community officer.

They choose to be there when there’s nothing going on.

Why do some young people do bad things?

Shereen: I know boys who go out in a gang and have fights. They started doing that, then people expect them to be like that and it becomes a cycle. Some of them have tried to change but no one ever supports them so they think, “What’s the point?”

Aisha: Sometimes it’s because people have nothing to do but hang around on the roadside. So they’ll go off and do something like graffiti. People expect you to act that way so you carry on.

Shereen: There are not enough facilities and you meet older people who are involved in bad behaviour. It’s a cycle, that’s how I see it.

If you could send a message to the government what would it be?

Aisha: They were once children – they should remember how it was. We have fun but our fun isn’t about damaging things or attacking people.

The more they badmouth us, the more young people are going to act like that.

Zita: The government needs to stop stereotyping children – everyone has a different personality. It makes us feel bad about ourselves – as if we can’t achieve goals because they always expect bad stuff from us.

Give us better facilities, and communicate more with us instead of trying to isolate us.

That way it’ll break the cycle and people will get on better, instead of being looked at in bad ways by adults, people clutching their bags when they’re walking down the street.

Aisha: Just because we’ve got our hoods up it doesn’t mean we’re going to rush across the street and snatch someone’s purse.

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