Friday, December 11, 2020

Youth Activism in An Adult World

Throughout history, the youth have always been at the forefront of activism, boldly demanding change. Today’s youth, Generation Z, is just as passionate in taking a stand as those who stood before. In today’s time, we have passionate, articulate activists such as Greta Thunberg, Emma Gonzalez, and Amariyanna Copeny. Due to the capabilities of social media, the youth also can create a tightly knit online community. This is especially beneficial when it comes to activism, as plans for action, and calls for support are easily shared to many people. However, outside of the social media bubble, the outlook of youth is often criticized and mocked by adults. The main contradictions fall under youthful naivety, or the lack of education. Through speaking out for climate change, Greta Thunberg has been wrongfully ridiculed by President Trump, amongst many others twice or triple her age. This response from so-called leaders breeds frustration, especially as this generation is the one that will be most impacted by the issues that they speak out about. These perspectives of today’s youth must be challenged, instead of stifled. Instead of looking to humiliate, social media posts should create respectful and thoughtful conversations. As this generation will inevitably inherit the planet, why should they not have a say in what state they will inherit it in?

Backlash against youth activism is found within both the physical world, and what lies within our phone and computer screens. Regardless of the source, the message is clear: stay silent. Though someone can easily post a picture in support of a cause, another can just as easily make an ignorant or hostile comment. Though anger should not be deterred for the sake of a comfortable conversation, the anonymity of social media can enable extreme toxicity to fester, to the point where the receiver of these comments feels physically unsafe. It is difficult to realize what is merely a threat on the internet, and what is a threat in real life. With society’s integration of technology in every aspect of life, the online world has molded into the physical. For example, those who have been attending the BLM protests have been urged not to take photos of other protestors. Past activists have been identified and tracked down from social media pages, then hurt (and killed) due their support of BLM. This danger may not be entirely commonplace, but it is real.

There are also society's own biases that make it challenging for, not only activists, but everyday people, to speak out against inequality. The stereotype of the “angry black man/woman” is especially relevant, as it twists an individual’s rightful anger into an “overreaction.” Those in opposition turn the problem against the individual, questioning their composure and mocking their lack of articulation, instead of evaluating the cause of anger in the first place. This is dehumanizing, as it condemns a whole person into a single characteristic, while allowing everyone else to continue about their lives. In our defensiveness, we, as a society, consistently do not address the problem. Those who speak out are discouraged, and we do not move forward.

As Gen Z is born in a different time, they are bound to have different perspectives. It is time that these perspectives, with all its complexities, contradictions, and shortcomings, are embraced and integrated within conversations. Those born of past generations must do its part to create challenged thinkers instead of attempting to train simple, obedient students. This generation already has a clear understanding of our harsh realities, as it quite literally grew up with tragedy. From terrorist attacks, to school shootings, to greedy politics, there is a distrust that society’s leaders truly have our best intentions in mind. However, instead of growing cynical and turning their backs on this world, the youth attempt to better it. Therefore, it is only right that we do not turn our backs on them.

Written by
Minerva Navasca

Youth Journalist
FOCUS Media Arts Centre

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