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California Youth: Ready to Rumble?:

At the very moment last week that many states were prideful about hometown talent winning medals in the Olympics, some of California’s youth were involved in public performances of a very different nature. The degree to which any of us can be proud may vary depending on your interpretation of events and the underlying themes. One thing seems to be consistent in the incidents involved: Young Californians aren’t afraid to put themselves out there for comment. In the last few weeks some of California’s youth seem to be saying to political correctness, “Bring it on.”

Last week students at the University of California, San Diego, took over the chancellor’s office to protest the hanging of a noose in a campus library. Bad enough on its own, the noose was only one in what was becoming a sequence of racially charged incidents at the campus. There had already been outrage at the college over an off-campus “Compton Cookout” party organized by some students that urged people to dress as ghetto stereotypes and touted the availability of chicken, watermelon, and malt liquor.

Let me give you a moment here to run to your calendars and confirm… yup, it is 2010, ten years into the 21st century. And yes, UC-San Diego is a place of higher learning.

I won’t widen the swath of the insult by repeating details such as the specific text used in a Facebook notice advertising the “Cookout”. Additionally, a fraternity has been reported to have been involved in organizing the event and you can go just about anywhere (Internet, films, books) for detailed information regarding the stupidity and elitism promulgated by fraternities.

But do let me expand the scope of last week’s California youth-quake rebellion.

At roughly the same time that UC San Diego was rocked by events there, yet another youthful beauty queen from California was out in front of reporters denouncing gay marriage. Miss California USA contestant Lauren Ashley, representing Beverly Hills, was quoting Leviticus and stating for the record, “I feel like God himself created mankind and he loves everyone, and he has the best for everyone. If he says that having sex with someone of your same gender is going to bring death upon you, that’s a pretty stern warning, and he knows more than we do about life.”

I would love to report that it was at that moment that a giant flying reptile straight out of a Monty Python animation picked Ashley up in its talons and flew her to a mountaintop reeducation center, but instead Ashley was carried-off by her own actions: The city of Beverly Hills has stated categorically that Ashley lives in Pasadena and “does not represent Beverly Hills in any capacity.” The company that produces the Miss California USA pageant admitted that Ashley’s moniker was of her own choosing. More on that hard-hitting story is available online, if you really have nothing better to do.

Outspoken Ashley’s beauty contestant philosophy follows closely on the heels of the well-publicized baloney tornado involving Carrie Prejean, who was in fact Miss California when she said during the Miss USA pageant that “I think in my country, in my family, I think that I believe that a marriage should be between a man and a woman…” then later went on to film an anti-gay marriage TV spot and ultimately had to give up her crown because she had previously posed with her breasts fully exposed in some saucy photographs.

That there’s a solid streak of opportunism running through something as archaic as a beauty pageant isn’t a headline, and with the photos Prejean may have technically qualified as a former sex worker at the time she was using her pageant position to advance the repression of civil rights. (Having had a family member involved in a beauty pageant back home, I’m still confused on how the swimsuit competition contributes to presenting tomorrow’s leaders.) Still… Prejean, Ashley, the mooks at UC San Diego who insist on walking backwards into the time tunnel… Is there some retro-spin ingredient in those energy drinks the kids are ingesting that makes them yearn for the bad old days of civil rights?

UC San Diego properly reacted to its problems with some attempted “teach-ins” to improve sensitivity… and students walked out of those to join campus protests of the racially-charged incidents. I don’t envy working that campus PR desk right now. But am I wrong to presume that by the time a young person reaches the point where they (theoretically) represent the best of something in their community or they are receiving a college education with help from resources contributed by the community around them that they should have had, say, 70% of their bigotry replaced with humanity and understanding? Are we hatching and releasing citizens from colleges and pageants who somehow get degrees or titles… and yet cling to crippling prejudice?

There’s enough evidence to the contrary that I don’t fret for the world of tomorrow. But I was sad for our state, which last week racked up way too many points in the category “Some People’s Kids Just Want to Stay Dumb.” Because of the blunder with Lauren Ashley’s “representing” Beverly Hills, I’m open to the possibility that there’s been some sort of mix-up in exactly what all this represents. One expects young people to think differently from their parents. Differently, not less.


STEVE STAJICH

Mirror Contributing Writer[email protected]

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