Today it has been announced that after calls from MPs and the media for her to resign Paris Brown, the newly appointed Youth PCC for Kent, has stepped down from her role following the discovery of racist/homophobic tweets on her Twitter account. To many people this situation is apparently very clear cut, she wasn't fit for the role and it was too much responsibility for a teenager anyway. Well, I'd like to argue that they're wrong.
Before looking at the specific case of Paris Brown I want to take a quick look at the decision to appoint a Youth Commissioner in the first place. The appointment of a Youth Police and Crime Commissioner for Kent was announced earlier in the year. Quoted by Kent News before the elections in August Ann Barnes (Now PCC for Kent) said :
“A police youth commissioner will create a link to those who really know what it’s like to be a young citizen in Kent,” “There are a lot of disenchanted young people out there and we need to give them a say in policing.”There have been doubts voiced from the outset, including at least one Kent MP hailing it a "gimmick", but actually, was it such a bad idea? I don't think so. Although being a big responsibility for a 17 year-old I think the Kent PCC had all the right ideas and intentions to make this work, and could ultimately have created some all important jobs for young people who don't want to go to university or be sent down vocational apprenticeship routes. There are plenty of young people out there who have the drive, commitment and capabilities to undertake the role, benefitting not only themselves but the communities that they work in, and there are plenty of under-recognised organisations that prove this. Unfortunately, after this recent turn of events young people have not had the chance to prove themselves and those who already had low expectations of them think they have been proved right.
But looking specifically at the situation with Paris... well, I just don't know what to think. Firstly I think that the way it has been portrayed in the media is unfortunate. If you read nothing more than the headlines you would be lead to believe that these tweets were posted recently when in fact they were a few years ago, when Paris was between the ages of 14 and 16. I fully recognise that the tweets were very rude and can be considered to be both racist and homophobic and certainly should not have been left in the public eye once the news of her appointment was announced. However, I don't think these tweets were cause for calls for Paris to resign. Aged 14-16 I doubt Paris realised the gravity of what she was saying and question if she even meant the comments in the way they are being read now. Paris herself says:
"I have fallen into the trap of behaving with bravado on social networking sites. I hope this may stand as a learning experience for many other young people."
If social networking websites had been in existence when many politicians, lawyers, doctors, teachers, bankers, etc had been her age can we guarantee that they're records would be totally clean? You can bet that they wouldn't be. Does mean that they still hold those opinions now and aren't fit for their job? It certainly does not.
Honestly, I'm disappointed in the lack of faith that has been show in young people over the last few days and hope that soon enough people will open their eyes rather than tarring them all with the same brush.
If you're interested in it, the statement made today by Ann Barnes PCC for Kent is here and a statement from Paris is here.