Goodman asserts an important point regarding the way in which youth are exploited and ultimately silenced. Factors beyond the social are inhibiting young people’s ability to use their voice in a positive way. This is something I’ve considered before when thinking critically about the way that teens of color are represented.

Most representations of “rebellious” white teens are not positive, but they pale in comparison to that of teens of color; the word criminal is thrown around a lot more casually. Goodman points out the underlying structural factors that teens of color face, especially in lower income areas, which contribute to their lack of agency and how they cope with it. This is sometimes through drugs or violence but this doesn’t make them criminals, but rather subjects to the structural inequality.

There are far more considerations given to white and/or affluent teens that are not given to teens of color and/or those in a different socioeconomic position. In my own experience, most of my high school peers used drugs either regularly or at some point in their life. There were quite a few car accidents caused by drug use (various kinds) and countless absences from class due to stints in rehab. However, none of these incredibly privileged people were ever once labeled criminals. They grew up in a bubble where their problems would just disappear if they wanted them to.

Teens of color and those in low income areas who are participating in illicit activities are doing so for almost the same reasons as anyone else: helplessness and a lack of agency is frustrating and sometimes requires an outlet. If outlets like after school programs, sports, even appropriately challenging schoolwork don’t exist, children are then left to their own devices and are vulnerable to what their environment has to offer. Teens need the tools and structure to use their voices in a positive way.

Labeling teens “criminal” or “rebellious” usually demarcates level of privilege more than anything else.