By Samuel Murray
America is currently undergoing a radical transformation in the way we live our lives, from an ongoing civil rights movement to COVID-19, and so much in our lives has been upended since the middle of March.
The voices of the youth are reverberating across the nation and the world with more power and urgency than ever. America must take the collective energy from the youth organizers of the potentially largest civil rights movement in history to push for substantive action on multiple fronts. The youth have sat idly by and are frustrated by the lack of action. George Floyd was the tip of the iceberg of the outrage. George Floyd became the loud symbol of a nation fed up with the systemic injustices of police brutality, racism, inequality and poverty.
Activism has generally been the young pushing back on the policies of the old, but the scale of today’s movements is seemingly all youth led demanding strong action. From civil rights to climate action, middle schoolers, high schoolers and college students across the country and world are making their voices heard, paving the way for change.
Even in our small island community, we see a tremendous outpouring of support from youth leadership in establishing a racial justice collective, where they have organized weekly and bi-weekly rallies and marches from the Village Green. Without the youth involvement in challenging the stagnant, slow moving political system, there may only be incremental reform, usually too slow to respond to evolving conditions of racism and inequity in society.
Reflecting on the amassed support of nationwide protests for racial justice and equitable institutions in America, it is important to understand the intersectional nature that racism plays among all facets of life. Racism is everywhere in the structures of America: redlining Black American’s housing from white Americans during the New Deal, hyper-policing of Black neighborhoods, the war on drugs and climate change. With such an overwhelmingly large and intersectional topic, it’s hard to know where to start. For one thing, white Americans can elevate the voices of those who have been fighting this same battle for decades. Read up on the NAACP and its work, the ACLU’s fight for civil rights for all; elevate Black artists and Black-owned businesses, make a substantive difference and alter behavior to be anti-racist. Simple complacency in a racist system and society is not enough. While one may not be explicitly racist in verbal or physical cues, the passive participation is extremely damaging.
Listen to the youth, as they are the ones spreading this valuable information. Listen to the youth as they are disproportionately fed up with the system and taking to the streets. Listen to the youth, because the world they are fighting for is a greater share of their future, so there is so much more for them at stake. Do not disregard their views as “idealistic,” because times change and so should opinions.
Samuel Murray is from Bar Harbor, an MDI High School alum (Class of 2016), who, in the fall, will be attending American University as a graduate student in political science.