Recently, teens have been bombarded with rhetoric and actions that do not support their development or provide a safe environment for them to thrive. Unfortunately, there are far too many recent examples of young people being bullied or harassed by their peers or adults. For example, a report from the Council on Islamic American Relations of California indicated that more than half of Muslim students ages 11 to 18 report having been bullied because of their religion. As teen library staff, we should address this atmosphere of fear and social injustice and work with teens to turn it into something positive by promoting the intrinsic values of tolerance, equality, and acceptance. And we should do this regardless of whether or not our communities include a large population of people from diverse backgrounds. In order to be successful, well-adjusted adults, we need to help all of our teens learn how to understand, accept and work with others, regardless of their background.
Recent discussions at a national level about immigrants and Muslim-Americans point to the need to help young people separate fact from fiction. Regardless of whether or not your community is hosting immigrant families or has a large Muslim community, now is great opportunity to convey to our teens the importance of compassion and inclusion for people of all backgrounds. One tool that I found incredibly helpful is the YALSA’s Cultural Competence Task Force1. This task force has compiled an extensive list of resources that not only provides general information and training information in regards to cultural competence, there is a great section of resources that we can use to help our teens develop cultural competencies through youth involvement. One article, entitled Engaging Youth to Create Positive Change: Parent Support Network of Rhode Island published by National Center for Cultural Competence, Center for Child and Human Development, and Georgetown University, states the following: