Cable talk show provides forum for teen problems Youths discuss sexism, racism and violence

April 16, 1996|By Alisa Samuels | Alisa Samuels,SUN STAFF

The topic of this talk show has never aired on "Oprah" or "Ricki Lake."

Viewers who watch a Cable 15 show this month can learn what's bothering Howard County's teen-agers: sexism, racism, teen violence and discrimination against youths.

During the nearly two-hour taping of "Youth Rap III" last week, middle and high school students talked candidly about the problems facing teens today.

More than 50 youths attended the rap session in the George Howard Building in Ellicott City that was sponsored by the county executive's ad hoc committee on human rights. The event, which County Executive Charles I. Ecker attended briefly, follows similar sessions in June and July 1994.

The cable show will air today at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Thursday at 4 p.m. and 9 p.m.

"Please have fun with this," urged Cable 15's hostess, Pia Jordan, telling youths that county policy-makers were listening to what they had to say. "The reason we're doing this is because we do care."

Pat Hatch, head of the committee's multicultural appreciation and sensitivity subcommittee, told the youngsters that the ad hoc committee would share the taping with parents, community organizations and others to get feedback on how to solve some of the problems raised.

"The first thing we'll talk about is sexism," Ms. Jordan said. "Who knows what sexism is?"

"It's like racism, but it's about your gender," responded a girl sitting in a circle of 24 chairs.

As an example of sexism, Ms. Jordan referred to a girl in Anne Arundel County who faced obstacles in her bid to play on a junior varsity baseball team. "What did you think about that?" she asked the group.

She stopped in front of Nicole Lewis, who said, "I don't think you should be judged on your sex."

Offering local examples of sexism, some youngsters said boys are teased for attending dance classes and that girls are discouraged from playing male-dominated sports, such as basketball.

When the topic shifted to whether women are treated as sex objects and the problem of date rape, a boy said, "Some girls ask for it because they're half-naked."

Hands shot into the air. "It really shouldn't matter what someone has on," a girl said, drawing applause. "It's not asking for it."

"I think you [boys] need to control your hormones," said Sarah Eisenstein, 16, a 10th-grader at Oakland Mills High School. "No one asks to be raped."

Similarly, one boy said parents are in denial about sexual harassment in county schools. "It's like running a gauntlet," he said, explaining how girls are called names as they walk the halls.

When the talk turned to racism, the young people said it is not uncommon for one group to make fun of another in school. They also said that students who try to mingle with other groups are criticized for trying to be something they are not.

Parents should correct their children's racist behavior so that they don't send the wrong message, many said.

Bruce Voge, 17, an 11th-grader at Howard High School, said people have hot tempers and are quick to react. "Maybe we all need to calm down a little bit," he said.

Another concern was age discrimination. The youngsters said some store clerks limit the number of youths who can enter. When they are allowed in, they said, they are constantly followed.

After being followed for so long, Bruce said, he knows the names of the security guards and waves to them.

Others are intimidated by teens, too, he said. When he walks by, he said, "I have old ladies clutching their purses. They need to know that all people below the age of 30 are not trying to rob them or kill them."

Most of the teens said they believe the increasing teen violence in the county is caused by lack of parental involvement and values, drugs and boredom.

Some individuals said violence comes from teen-agers trying to be tough. To avoid being harassed, many join gangs.

After the taping, James E. Henson Sr., administrator for the county's Office of Human Rights, said, "I've learned we need to listen to our young people and learn from them."

He said youngsters were encouraged to talk about discrimination because it starts at a young age. "We think our young people are not only our future leaders but they are our present leaders."

Among the few parents present was Alice Lewis of Columbia's Village of Hickory Ridge, who brought her daughters, Nicole, 10, and Michelle, 11.

"It was excellent for young people to air their concerns and thoughts," she said.

Pub Date: 4/16/96

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