The Revelation

Young Activists Aren’t a New Trend

Elizabeth Panter, Opinion Editor

Imagine a classroom full of students, impatiently glancing at the clock until the hand hits twelve. They all uniformly stand up, keeping their heads up and staring forward as they march out of school. While the notion may appear foreign in a school like St. Andrew’s, it has become a frequent scene in other schools across the nation due social issues. Younger generations are stepping forward and voicing their protests. Why is there this sudden leap in activism?

Actually, it is not a leap or abrupt change in society at all. Despite what the media may portray, young people’s involvement in activism is not a new trend. In the 1950s and 1960s, the civil rights movement as well as the second wave of feminism came into play. Sally Kohn’s article from The Washington Post states Claudette Colvin at age fifteen refused to get up from her bus seat, less than a year before Rosa Parks. Colvin was arrested, but her protest did not gain as much attention as Parks’ protest.

“It was Colvin who paved the way for what would end up being a powerfully effective spark in the history of the civil rights movement,” Kohn said.

Even before the civil rights movement and the second wave of feminism, younger people voiced what they believed in order to gain attention for these issues.

“In 1903, it was 400 children who staged a three-week march from Philadelphia to Theodore Roosevelt’s summer home in New York to bring attention to the abuses of child labor,” Kohn said.

Many people believe younger activists are coming forth because of recent concerns in society. One reason younger activists seem to be a new trend is more in this age than in decades past, young activists have access to widespread technology; phones, computers, tablets and social media were not available decades ago. Another reason is because Gen X, the generation before Millennials, did not participate in activism as much due to the generation’s progress before them.

“I think my generation (Gen X) took for granted the rights fought for and gained by our parents’ generation and were a little more complacent,” Upper School History Teacher Emily Jones said. “[Millennials and Gen Z are] faced with issues we didn’t have to worry about (like the normalization of gun violence in schools) and has platforms for information and organization, social media, that weren’t available to us.”

Social media spreads news faster. Younger people having a platform to voice their protests makes their presence known even more.

“Honestly, discussion of politics seems more prominent with teenagers than adults in my experience,” Senior Stephen Cook said. “[M]any teens also realized their voices don’t matter after the 2016 election where the adults took charge and put someone else in power despite the voice of the people saying otherwise.”

Students realizes the amount of power they have with technology and organize protests accordingly. Peter Burke from Local 10 ABC News reported the “die-in” protest organized by Parkland school shooting survivor David Hogg. Boycotting Publix for their support of a pro-gun rights Republican, several students made chalk body outlines representing each student lost in the shooting as well as laying on the ground in the store for 12 minutes. Younger generations demand to be heard and will not allow anyone to silence them.

“That restless rebelliousness that has left so many parents and teachers frustrated is also the essential superpower of youth,” Kohn said.

School shootings are not the only issues plaguing younger generations. Laws discriminating people based on race, sexuality, gender identity, religion and even what people are allowed to do with their bodies, like abortion or birth control, continue to make an appearance. All these concerns relating to equality, safety, and feminism are the focus of young activists.

“Right now… teenagers are not financially independent and do not have children,” Jones said. “So, you may not focus on… economic issues as much.  But social justice policies effect teens sometimes as much as adults, so I see those issues as more prevalent in teen activism.”

Not only do these concerns plague many of the younger generations, they also stand and speak for people without a voice. Social issues are more of young activists’ speed because they pertain to their generation.

“There are other reasons young people often make effective activists,” Kohn said. “They have a good amount of free time, are willing to be creative with their tactics and try new things, and are skilled in cutting-edge methods of communication.”

Young people have always been activists, but are even more active in this day and age. Just like the patterns in history show, certain younger generations will not let their age get in the way of fighting for the future.

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