My Reply Letter to Someone About Adult Allyship (and, Inherently, Youth Empowerment)

Hi [anonymous individual to respect confidentiality],

I am sorry for my delayed response. I saw your email the day you sent it but believed I would have to take a bit of time to think carefully about how to respond.

First of all, thank you very much for being an active and reflective listener. Your adult allyship means a lot to me. Yes, I as a youth and thus a member of the impacted, centered group in this conversation do perceive “mentoring” to be harmful across various contexts. I believe “mentoring” can happen intergenerationally and intragenerationally. Youth can mentor adults and vice versa, and people of the same age groups may mentor each other. Who gets to be the mentor and who gets to be the mentee is decided based on the quality of applicable experience or insight to the situation at hand. Hence, if I as a person of color am talking about facing racism in a discussion with you, I as a youth could mentor you because I am the one with and susceptible to more applicable, lived experiences thereof.

If an adult uses the term “mentoring” toward a youth with the underlying code that that youth does not know enough simply because they are a youth, then the adult’s actions would be ageist. Hence, I do not think I view “mentoring” as code for “not knowing anything” necessarily, especially since it is not a bad thing to admit that people of all ages may be unfamiliar with different topics. Rather, I think the intention and tone of bias toward youth via the stereotypical assumptions that they are less mature or less capable of having the equal opportunity to learn is where the “contextual differences” stem from.

I apologize if my labeling of “mentoring” as “adultist” came off as anti-adult, especially since that would be ageist in itself. I should have said that
“mentoring” in some contexts, like the above ones, would be adultist. I agree with you; mentoring is valuable. However, I hope to specifically clarify that you referred to mentoring from and of all ages. In other words, you meant that youth mentoring youth would be valuable; youth mentoring adults would be equally valuable; and adults mentoring youth as well.

Please let me know if all of these details clarified my viewpoints to you. I am free on weekends for any calls, if you would like to further discuss this topic. Thank you again for recognizing your privilege and being an introspectively critical learner.

Warmest regards,
Sophie Xu (she/her/hers)

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