Gen-Z has developed our political values and awareness during the Trump Administration. Many of us were just entering middle school and beginning to gain an awareness of politics and form our own opinions when Trump took office.
Trump’s presidency has greatly affected our outlook on government, on the future, and on what has to happen next.
We have seen four years of a White House that not only tolerates, but encourages hate speech, divisiveness, and blatant lies. We have seen this hate backed up by policies that are grounded in racism, xenophobia, homophobia, misogyny, and a general disregard for human life. The fallout from these policies has been concentrated in low-income communities of color.
Worst of all, we have seen our democracy, our leaders, and our country tolerate this behavior.
The Trump Administration has ripped off the Band-Aid and exposed the hatred and ignorance that are ingrained in many American ideologies. At the same time, the identities of an entire generation have been cemented during this unprecedented period.
So what does this mean for our future? Will our newfound political activism bring our country into a brighter, better future, or will hopelessness and anger turn into apathy?
We have the potential to be a generation of activists. Gen-Z hasn’t been given the option to be unaware of politics. We have been forced to reckon with the worst of our country, and we’ve seen how easily hatred can take over. Because of this, we are keenly aware of America’s flaws and are willing to confront them head-on.
We believe that the government must take action to restore our faith and engage us.
Our social media savviness makes organizing, engaging, and connecting with each other around issues we care about easier than ever. We know the importance of continuing to challenge authority and hold leaders accountable for their actions in order to create meaningful change. Young people are more engaged and equipped than ever.
Even so, we have also grown up with a lot of anger, fear, resentment, and hopelessness. We have lost faith in our leaders and the sanctity of democracy. Many of us have been directly hurt by the government and no longer feel that the government is on our side – if we ever felt that way in the first place. If these feelings are left unchanged, or if more of us start to feel this way, we could become a disconnected and apathetic generation.
So how can our leaders encourage activism over apathy? We believe that the government must take action to restore our faith and engage us. We need a government that will address the issues that affect youth most directly, like policing, climate change, immigration, and LGBTQ rights. There are a variety of bills and policies in New York State that help address these issues.
The Solutions Not Suspensions Act in the New York State Legislature would help to curb the school-to-prison pipeline. Among other provisions, the bill would eliminate armed police officers from our schools. This will show students that they are trusted and reduce the trauma that police inflict on Black and Indigenous students of color.
Defunding the police and reinvesting that money in health care, mental health services, housing, and education would show young people that their well-being is more important than the government's ability to inflict violence against them.
The New York Sigh Act would prioritize our health by prohibiting the construction of schools by major roadways, protecting students from harmful pollution.
And having gender-inclusive options on official documents would help validate the identities of people who have been ignored, such as intersex and non-binary youth. This one simple policy could have life-saving impacts. One study found a drastic reduction in suicide attempts for transgender people who had even one identity document that accurately reflected their gender identity.
Seeing young people, LGBTQ+ people, women, and BIPOC in positions of power is also essential to getting and keeping us engaged, which is why it’s important to pay attention to elections at all levels of the government.
If leaders reach out and listen to what we have to say, our generation can lead the way toward a more just, equitable, and compassionate country.