By 2036, today’s American youth will make up 60% of the country’s national electorate, according to a projection by the Brookings Institution. Yet, in contrast to a prospect that should warrant a promise, guaranteeing that the perspectives of Gen-Z are elevated and empowered at the decision-making table, modern American youth are experiencing a collective crisis that foreshadows otherwise: a crisis of political inactivity. Without consciousness of their contemporary political environment, Gen-Z is poised to inherit a country manufactured by legislators that doesn't represent its diversity, and policies that do not manifest on behalf of their interests. Unless collective action is taken, by 2036, that political momentum can no longer be overturned — younger Americans will lack control of control. It is clear that we can not show up for our future if we do not invest in our voices today.
Young Americans see themselves reflected at the forefront of legislative consequences. Their identities are constantly created or targeted by the sphere of influence of lawmakers, and their means of self-expression are representative of how one processes a dynamically evolving political world. Provided that their experiences directly correspond to the power that distant lawmakers can wield so closely over their own rights, especially in the education system, young voices should serve as an essential cornerstone of how America delivers justice. From the books read and taught to the way one can express themselves in learning environments, Gen-Z is most vulnerable to crackdowns on identity: from the codification of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis' "Don't Say Gay Bill" into action, to the 1,477 instances witnessed in 2023 alone of individual book bans across the nation for addressing topics as sensitive as they are critical. Without critical education resources, young Americans are being conditioned to enter a future in which their political decisions are informed by stigmatization in place of rational consciousness, and a negative feedback loop, outdated in itself, within which legislations exploit their jurisdiction in continuing to discourage, supplant, and deny the capabilities of Gen-Z. Disengagement within youth is not an imminent, but rather generational form of disillusionment, serving as a stigma that has yet to be realized as an antiquated tradition within the realm of decision-making.
Crucial turning points like these for the represented futures of the American identity should be an undiluted calling to stand up and fight for Gen-Z voices, but while youth today are statistically more inclined to be politically active than previous generations, with 63 percent of Gen-Z respondents in a poll conducted by the Harvard Institute of Politics considering themselves politically active as compared to 53 percent of millennials, the attainment of tangible political literacy and change has sufficed constantly to shortcomings, on account of the many attitudes, means, and superficial motives modern Gen-Z activism may often utilize. Because of the socioeconomic privileges that a sizable proportion of young Americans inherit, the lack of conscious subjection to unjust public policy produces the social behavior to abstain from empathizing, let alone recognizing those around who are: absence from oppression leads to abstinence from taking direct action. Without the critical ability to empathize, in some instances in which more able youth do engage in public activism, their performativism counterproduces a false sense of accomplishment in a reality where nothing has been achieved, incapacitating our motivation to take feasible action.
There is by no means a certain instruction manual for responding to modern and ever-evolving global issues, meaning that true accountability will require creativity and rely heavily on the act of individual expression. Although the tenets of the American political system are often constructed through fatal flaws in representation, the prerequisite for that voice itself is an individual’s willingness to be aware of and act upon paramount national issues. Whether a young American chooses to interact directly with a local community, document an issue that matters to them through their personal perceptions, or find a creative medium through which they can express an original perspective, the nexus of youth activism that drives circulation and change is essentially each person’s indisposable imperative to be engaged and engaging - even, or perhaps especially, if it revolves on some improvisation.
Winograd, Morley, Michael Hais, and Doug Ross. “How Younger Voters Will Impact Elections:
Younger Voters Are Poised to Upend American Politics.” Brookings Institution, May 3, 2023. https://www.brookings.edu/blog/fixgov/2023/02/27/younger-voters-are-poised-to-upend-american-politics/.
Diaz, Jaclyn. “Florida’s Governor Signs Controversial Law Opponents Dubbed ‘Don’t Say
Gay.’” NPR, March 28, 2022. https://www.npr.org/2022/03/28/1089221657/dont-say-gay-florida-desantis.
“Harvard Youth Poll: Election 2020.” Harvard Institute of Politics, 2020.
Meehan, Kasey, Jonathan Friedman, Tasslyn Magnusson, and Sabrina Baêta. “2023 Banned
Books Update: Banned in the USA.” PEN America, May 15, 2023. https://pen.org/report/banned-in-the-usa-state-laws-supercharge-book-suppression-in-schools/.