Monday, March 26, 2007

My View: Skateboarders Are Not Bad Kids

It seems this story on Good Morning America (about the skateboarder who was shoved by the cop) has raised quite a stir these last few days. Apparently, the sentiment against public skateboarding is an issue that has been quietly brewing under the covers in communities all over the nation. And this incident was just the spark needed to ignite public opinion. It's also an incident that is especially relevant to our community and our son Austin.

As all of my longterm readers are aware, my son has gained national attention himself for leading a large project to bring a skateboard plaza to our city (follow the related links at the bottom for the history of his story).

This incident in South Carolina is the exact reason why what Austin is doing is so important. Absolutely that guy should not have been skating on city benches, but in almost every town where illegal skateboarding is a problem, there is no other place for them to skate legally.

What's so interesting to me about this story is how polarized the public has become over whether the cop was right or wrong for what she did (I tried to link to the hundreds of comments on the ABC News message board but they don't keep a static forum history). To me that's a non-issue. Police (or anyone for that matter) are simply not allowed to shove someone unless they are trying to protect themselves in the name of self defense. And obviously, this guy was not attacking the police officer as he skated past her on a bench going 2 mph.

Unfortunately, this controversy stems from a couple of huge stereotypes against skaters:
1 - They destroy public property. The problem is, the only places that have the kinds of "features" (such as large cement stairs, rails and ledges) where skateboarders can execute their craft - are at business buildings on public property.

2. They are all disrespectful smart-asses. Well, over the last 6 months I've been working very closely with a large group of skateboarders in the planning of St. Cloud's new skate plaza, and I'm thrilled to say that this stereotype couldn't be any further from the truth. These young men have been coming to meetings, helping with designs and encouraging public support. In fact, on Friday night a group of local skateboarders held a huge fundraiser that brought in over 200 people and netted $600 in donations. Another fundraiser planned by the same group will be held in April with more to follow over the summer.

Actually, I can see how skateboarders can cop an attitude. In towns without skate parks, the only thing these kids ever here is "You can't skate here!" or "You're destroying public property!" Yeah, if that's the only thing I ever heard I would probably get a little defensive myself.


Unlike what is happening in South Carolina and towns all over America, our situation is demonstrating how the youth, parents and the city can effectively work together through mutual respect. The skaters have been attending all of the planning meetings and learning how they can help, and city officials have been attending the fundraisers and offering their support every step of the way. Now, instead of having a group of frustrated skaters doing whatever they feel is necessary to make a point, we now have a group of inspired skaters doing everything they can to make a skate park. It really is amazing.

And that's the difference. In most towns, the skaters are simply demanding that the city build them a skate park. In our town, the skaters are helping to build the skate park. That's a big difference.

And so my point is this - instead of jumping to conclusions that all skateboarders are delinquents who have no respect for authority or public property, take a minute and try to see it from their perspective. These are just kids who want to be left alone to engage in a healthy and creative sport, but everyone is telling them to go away.

Instead, let's tell them how to get involved so they can have a place to go.

Next up: Update on the St. Cloud Skate Plaza project - including the plans!
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Related Reads - follow these links to read related posts about Austin and his project:

Dude With a Dream
Dizzy
Special Report - Skateboard Plaza Update
The story behind the story - ABC News Person of the Week
Picking up steam!

15 comments:

Jenny said...

I was raised with skaters. They'd travel for miles to find a ramp in someone's backyard but sometimes all you could find was a library bench.

Austin's fighting for a darn good cause.

yellojkt said...

I don't have a problem with sk8rs in public places because so many seem custom designed for it. We have some that hang out at the entrance to our large cul de sac, so they are always dodging cars. I've also never seen them complete a trick. They are pretty bad.

Steve Novoselac said...

ahh, plywood pushers? Ha, yeah I used to skate way back in the day,"skateboarding is not a crime"

did you see this , it was friday not at the rox, the skater movie form the youth shelter supply?

http://www.roxtav.com/teaser.mov

Mooselet said...

To say that skateboarders are disrespectful is horse hockey (as my dad would say). That label can be applied to any group of teenagers, and is often untrue. Skaters are no different than any other group of kids getting together to do what they enjoy.

Too bad more cities are not following your fair city's example and building a place for these kids rather than waste a bunch of time chasing them off public property. If you build it, they will come.

Harmonica Man said...

jenny - It's true. I can't believe the places these kids find to skate at. Loading docks are a big hit believe it or not.

yello - That's funny. It takes these kids years to be able to do the good tricks. But I've never met a more determined bunch. Austin and his friends will spend 6 hours trying to pull off a single trick in the driveway. However, once they get good they're amazing.

steve - THAT Rox event was the fundraiser I was referring to in my post. The new video is fantastic! I was there and took a bunch of pictures. I'll post some in a few days.

mooselet - Ah yes... if you build it. Based on the number of skaters who are drooling over this skate plaza, I would say it's going to be a VERY busy place.

deborah said...

it takes years of concentration to become that talented. oh, and some grace. of which, i have neither. so i'm out on the board. but thankfully, we do have a great park for them to do their tricks and it's awesome in every sense of the word to watch them. can't wait to see the pics

Jenny said...

Me again.

You've been tagged.

min said...

I've been slammed into by skaters,I've been yelled at by skaters and I've had skaters reel past me so fast that they knock me off balance. There are some inconsiderate skaters in our city. I've had the same experience with mommies pushing strollers, businessmen driving the freeways and any number of "types" pushing grocery carts.
For the most part, I think teens just want to do their own thing. It's nice to know that they're focused on something.

Carla said...

Here Here!! Very well said and you need some MORE media exposure on your particular situation with skateboarders As in everything there are usually two sides to the story.

Diesel said...

Our city has a great skate park.

Personally, I'm more concerned with the levitation problem.

onetallmomma said...

Well written and point taken. Here in Portland, we are lucky enough to have a skateboard park. And as my nine year son is enamored with anything that has wheels, I have the distinct feeling that skateboards are in my future.

I just wish they wouldn't skateboard down the center of my street at 2 am...I ditrubes my beauty sleep.

Karl said...

Wow, didn't know about the ABC News Person of the Week. Very cool!

deborah said...

jeff, this is totally off the subject here; but,it's hamster related.

anyway, remember my daughter's friend that lost, and buried her g.pig? well, the other one, mr. wiggles, has now fallen ill. so sad, so sad. (no worries, i promise not to make a sick snake joke this time around) anyway, he spent the night at the vets office, it's not looking good. any suggestions?

Harmonica Man said...

deborah - Huh, I was going to tell you to click on my profile to grab my email address and send me a note, but my email is not displaying there. I'll have to straighten that out. Anyway, sorry to hear about the sick little piggy. Write me at jalcml@juno.com and we can talk over email.

wayabetty said...

You're right! Skaters sure get a bad rap and I have to admit I DID have my own prejudice against them too, as you pointed out.

But after reading about Austin's story, my view has totally been changed. Thanks for opening my cloudy eyes.