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Op-ed

Stop Belittling Youth Activism

Ever since this mess of an election began, I’ve seen the youth of America be more involved in politics than ever before; taking a stand and letting their voices be heard, usually in the form of protesting. In my community, and in others throughout the country, students have organized events such as walkouts, protests, and marches. But with every good intention of fighting against this administration, there have been people who shut down their efforts and make the weight of their actions harder to be felt.

It’s expected for the older generation to be critical of the youth using their power and uniting to speak against the actions by our government, in hopes of making a change and if not, letting it be known that change is needed and wanted. Yet what I’ve seen recently is other young people dismissing their efforts, saying things like, “It’s not going to change anything” and “He’s still our president.” This kind of attitude not only misses the whole point of what they are doing but discourages participation and halts the growth that could be made if teenage activism was taken seriously and supported by our peers.

When Trump won the presidency, it angered and confused many of the students, and myself alike, as to how this could’ve happened. The vast majority of the students at my high school did not support Trump and found his ideology to be harmful and oppressive to them, their families and the people they care about. The following week after the election, a walkout was organized by the students and they took to the streets protesting the president-elect. On February 16, 2017, or “Day Without Immigrants” hundreds of students from my school did not attend class in support of the cause and to represent their families.

As with most activism today, these protests were announced and spread through social media. Along with the sharing of positives taken from the protests, negative opinions were also given. On my twitter timeline, I saw tweet after tweet about the youth in my community being “ignorant” or “not knowing what they are protesting for” and stated how they found it to be pointless when nothing would change. Well, certainly not with that attitude.

They have a cause and they have a reason. Protesting is their way of being the change they want to see.

Evidence of youth activism that has had results can be found, and they were successful because of the support received behind the cause and because of the number of people dedicated to their cause. In Oakland, CA, the Youth Leadership Council of the Oakland Public Library protested along with an organized rally by high school students to fight against budget cutbacks and to stop the closing of branches of the city’s 15 public libraries. It resulted with no libraries being closed and no reduced hours. Also, in San Francisco, CA, the Youth Uprising Coalition marched for an alternative to a night-time curfew that criminalized the youth in the city. They ended up gaining a roller skating facility, community programs and job opportunities for the youth.

Teenagers that participate in activism — rallies, protests, marches, walk-outs, etc. know that by doing so, immediate change won’t happen. They know that “he’s still our president” and that it will take more than just a protest to gain results, but it’s the start. And with more numbers and more support, change is very possible. In an essay by professors from universities across America for DML Central, the topic of youth activism, technology, and the support needed for social justice among the youth are discussed. Here they state, “However, if youth are going to have influence in the public sphere to advocate for themselves and the issues they care about, collective efforts are needed. Opportunities to engage in service and activism can provide the space, support, and access for young people to develop a healthy sense of civic identity in which they see themselves as connected to a community of people who share their concerns, are committed to sustaining and improving that community, and feel they have the agency to play an important role in the community.”

It’s important that we support the efforts by our youth to create change in the issues they care about because it sends the message that their voices are needed and they are valued, and with support, they can succeed.

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Italie Penaloza
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17 year old girl from California just writing her thoughts.

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