The results of the election have been a shock to many of us, especially those aware of social justice issues—and it is fair to say that the new United States President-elect has produced heightened feelings for many on different ends of the spectrum. However, one group excluded and overlooked from these divided narratives are teens—the young adults too old to create a bubble away from the policies that affect them, but too young to take advantage of their right to vote. Amidst all of the conversations about democracy, young people’s feelings do not deserve to be doomed in masquerade. We asked them ourselves what these current events mean to them.
“As a young female who is trying to advocate for those who don’t have a voice, it has become much harder for me.”
―NYC Action Fellow Paola Hernandez, 17
The election results disheartened many young people, lowered the self-esteem of some and made all question what impact this would have on the work they’ve done in the past and will do in the future.
“As a young female who is trying to advocate for those who don’t have a voice, it has become much harder for me,” stated Paola Hernandez, a 17-year-old ACE Action Fellow in New York City. Her Mexican-American identity has been an attribute she has struggled with her whole life. Given the rhetoric of this election, it makes sense why some would feel their voices are being hushed. Policies discussed throughout the campaigns have been commemorated and spread through memes on social media. Unfortunately for a multitude of teenagers, the reality behind these posts feel all too real.
“I won’t let the success of LGBTQ communities and women’s rights to be overturned just because of this presidency.”
―NYC Action Fellow Mariana Vargas, 17
Nonetheless, Paola’s one takeaway from all this is a message the youth and all other age groups can abide by. “I have been told by many people” she said, “that they are spending time to find themselves. But it's time to stop looking and time to start making ourselves into the person that we would like to [be].” Yes, girl!
Other Action Fellows who also share this sentiment are already coming into the battlefield of a shifting administration with solutions in mind! Hakim Evans, who hails from an immigrant community and lives mainly with Caribbean immigrants, talked a great deal about the prejudice people of color face in American society and how that inevitably leads to a distrust of the law. At this point in the daily news cycle, almost all Homo sapiens in this country, who are not living in a bubble, are aware of the inequality people of color have to overcome―whether they want to acknowledge it or not.
So, what can the youth do to close these gaps in community relations? According to Hakim, organizing simple community-based events goes a long way. Getting involved in events that boost the morale of all those discouraged by recent events, whether through words, art, or food, cannot undo all that has happened and will continue to happen…But they can provide some solace by bringing together a sea of different experiences and hopefully by portraying the resilience of human nature.
“For progress to occur, we have to be optimistic. We cannot lose this battle.”
—NYC Action Fellow David Huang, 17
In addition, we cannot discredit the optimism a great deal of young people delineate despite the shift. When asked if the recent rhetoric perpetrated fears specifically for young people, Ijeoma Nnadi, another 17-year-old Fellow at ACE, responded with a conspicuous “yes.” She talked about how the the Obama presidency set a precedent for her work as a young woman of color, but that was overturned with the loud backlash by many people across the country that seem to want to invalidate the progress made by President Obama. She admitted that there was now a modification in the perception of goals she could achieve, although she would “fight against it all regardless.”
Another ACE Fellow, David Huang, said he felt “uncertain,” and that he didn’t know “what to expect in the upcoming months.” He went on to say that, “For progress to occur, we have to be optimistic. We cannot lose this battle.” ACE Fellow Mariana Vargas added that she “won’t let the success of LGBTQ communities and women’s rights to be overturned just because of this presidency.”
Everyone has articulated in eloquent words everything I too feel about this past week. I don’t know what this country or its movements have in store next because if there’s one thing this election cycle has taught us, is that there is an extreme divide in our country — a divide that wasn’t predicted because a large group of people were not heard. How can we move forward now? Perhaps by empowering another group of people that is often left out of the picture as well: young people. Maybe the feelings associated with this election would have been different if the youth had a greater voice — who knows?!