by K. B., Fitchburg, MA
Imagine this scene: A respectable, law-abiding, 45-year-old citizen enters a local store to purchase a can of black spray paint. When he reaches the counter he is asked his age. Bewildered, he answers and hears, "I'm sorry but I can't sell this to you if you're under 50. I guess some 45-year-olds vandalized a public building and City Hall asked me to check ages before I sell spray paint."
Sound impossible? Well it's happening right under our noses to the most victimized, discriminated-against group in modern day society: teenagers.
I was placed in this very situation a few weeks ago on Main Street in Fitchburg, my hometown. Members of any other age group, race, or religion would never have been subjected to this type of discrimination, yet teenagers everywhere have each had their own experiences similar to mine.
I have never committed any crime, yet when I enter a department store I am treated like a common thief. Clerks feel compelled to scrutinize and/or follow me around. I often hear sarcastic comments like "Can I help you?" Translation: if you're not going to buy something, leave.
Also prevalent are socially accepted inequalities between teenagers and other age groups. One example is the price for movie tickets. Adult tickets are required to admit a 12-year-old or over while you must be 17 to view an R-rated movie, which tend to make up a large percentage of the marquee.
Restaurants are also substantial offenders. Teenagers are often refused service by being ignored. When we do manage to attract someone's attention, we are placed at the bottom of their priority list. Adults are always served first.
Occurrences of discrimination have been receiving worldwide publicity for over 100 years in newspapers, magazines, literature, and television. Age discrimination against teenagers is rarely documented by the media yet every teenager I have spoken to for this article feels s/he has been subjected to discrimination based solely on age at least once.
All teenagers need to work together to end this discrimination. The first thing we must do is break free from the clich"s which stereotype us as immature, obnoxious, and unlawful.
We must not only direct our encouragement toward ourselves, we need to spread our concern and support to our peers. By displaying us as the responsible, mature, and considerate individuals that most of us are we are opening the door to the respect and support every teenager deserves to function successfully in society.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.