By Jasanee Killins
The most anticipated day of 2020 is merely a ballot away. In America, the emphasis on voting, educating oneself and getting involved with local and federal politics is nothing new. No matter the age, an air of concern has been hovered over many voters since 2016. But above all else, this emphasis has been stressed on one particular demographic Generation Z, or better known as Gen Z.
Including individuals born from the late 1990s to early 2000s, many of these Gen Z Americans were ineligible to exercise their rights at the time of the last election, even as an alarming number of Americans from previous generations neglected to do so when they had the opportunity. Given that most of Gen Z has reached the voting requirements over the past four years, the spotlight is cast directly on us as we figure out who will shape America’s future come Election Day and beyond.
It’s no secret that America has its eyes on this specific generation, not only for how vocal it’s become but for its attention to the operation of the American government, society and cross-cultural relations. As a result, the concept of Gen Z being the generation to essentially save America from itself has been debated and explored across various platforms.
From my own perspective as someone within this generation, I have witnessed a decent balance between American youth who do and do not care for the politics of America. Some have come to realize the importance of voting recently, and some have otherwise dismissed it with a detachment to the subject matter. In a lot of cases, including my own, some people cannot afford to turn a blind eye to what is going on in America: I am black, bisexual and a gender-nonconforming young lady.
With these facets of my identity constantly brought into question, turning a blind eye could very well make me a target on all fronts.
My reproductive rights, rights as an LGBTQ+ American and experiences as a member of the black community are constantly treated like topics for an argument when they could easily determine whether or not I deserve agency in my own country. Additionally, our society’s tumultuous attitudes towards protest and identity were what pushed me to get involved; though I was not a part of either, the events that unfolded in Charlottesville forever live with me as a reminder that something needs to be done. Besides using my voice through whatever outlet possible, I knew the best way to do so was through studying the country’s issues and voting.
That being said, in what ways are Gen Z moving to change America?
Among Gen Z’s methods in spreading awareness to more young, eligible Americans, utilizing pop culture and social media has been the most effective. From boosting political information through the TikTok algorithm to the K-Pop fandom weaponizing itself in the face of bias, Gen Z taps into its peers’ social interests through creative measures, branching out in these areas to both captivate and educate others.
This method is notably efficient since platforms like TikTok, Twitter, Instagram and more are increasingly widespread. While its effects have been incredible thus far, this doesn’t mean it’s exempt from setbacks. Unfortunately, a lot of people take some Gen Z’s activists and their calls to action for granted. Rather than consistently follow through with making change and educating oneself on America’s problems, this system of awareness is susceptible to being treated like a trend.
One such example was Instagram’s Blackout Tuesday. In early June, accounts were encouraged to post an all-black square on their pages to allow information on Black Lives Matter to gain more traction and attention. However, as a result of so many individuals posting these squares in Black Lives Matter-related tags, almost little to no information could be seen.
To those who were a part of the Black Lives Matter movement, this event did the direct opposite of its goal; additionally, Blackout Tuesday’s activism seemed more performative than anything else. Although Gen Z does its best with making social issues known, this isn’t to say that there aren’t people holding up the process. As the saying goes, there are crabs at the bottom of every barrel, ready to drag others down when they reach the top.
Moreover, there are plenty of Gen Z Americans who spread misinformation on these same platforms, adding onto the confusion regarding politics, social change and the upcoming conclusion of this year’s election season.
Not even a year ago from now, my mother told me that my generation will be the one to put an end to our country’s political upheaval. In all honesty, I don’t think the instability of America’s political scene is something that can be ceased; nonetheless, I do believe it can be quelled and resolved for periods at a time.
As someone who’s made her trip to the polls earlier this October, the insight I can provide is that Gen Z, with its endless accessibility to its demographic and relentless pressure on the government, will pull through when America needs them the most. If not, they’ll do everything in their power to ensure their voices are heard, even when faced with seemingly lost causes.
Although there are people within this generation who either don’t pay enough attention, are too focused on the wrong topics or use others’ efforts for the betterment of their own image, Gen Z has shown enough potential to prove it’s here to rebuild America from the ashes of this year and years prior. However, America can’t shift all of the weight onto our shoulders.
Gen Z needs everyone to step up. Millennials, Gen X and Baby Boomers are all a part of this country too; whereas vast quantities of these groups are set in their ways, an equal portion of these same Americans are capable of aiding Gen Z in establishing progress. The country can’t simply depend on one force to fix its issues. If so, that force’s efforts can end fruitlessly without the right amount of support. This wouldn’t be the first time something of that nature happened. As far as this generation’s concerned, it would be the last time America allowed its people to standby when the future of the country was at stake.
What these groups tend to forget is that seeking change often involves becoming it. Gen Z alone cannot fix America. However, if their fellow Americans stand alongside them, then I have faith that Gen Z and countless more citizens can truly pave the way to a new America brimming with promise and solidarity.