By Ashens Limon
This story was originally published by The kNOw Youth Media in Fresno, Calif. Editor’s Note: For the purposes of this article, “Gen Z” will be defined as anyone born during or after 1997.
We live in a time where political parties are constantly at each other’s necks, police brutality is prevalent, gay rights are a debate, and the world is literally on fire. This is the world Gen Z has grown up in, seeing all this tension through the touch of a screen.
According to the 2018 American Psychological Association’s annual Stress in America survey, Gen Z is reported to have the worst mental health in history. Older generations say it’s because of the pressure of social media and that we’ve never felt real stress or anxiety. However, I believe the real issue behind the stress and anxiety is the environment that we grew up in.
As children, we lived in a world of financial crisis, school shootings, the aftermath of 9/11 and how it affected Americans’ views on Muslims, and we have seen the continued abuse of Asian, Latinx and Black people through social media. It is these injustices that have served as the inspiration for our activism.
On top of that, Gen Z is the most diverse generation we have ever seen. With a fourth of every Gen Z’er being Latinx, we have a lot of young people calling for justice against Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE). We constantly see videos and photos of the treatment our own people are experiencing by the law and within detention centers. Fresno itself is almost 50 percent Latinx, creating even more anger against the poor treatment of our undocumented neighbors and the push for immigration reform and the abolishment of ICE.
We are also the gayest generation. We saw the legalization of gay marriage in 2015, boosting our impulse for justice against the prejudice that so many LGBTQ+ people still face, such as the transgender military ban and the still legal conversion therapies that affect so many people to this day. We also see the continued violence against trans people, specifically trans women, simply because of their gender. This continued prejudice and violence sparks rage among people all across the sexuality spectrum, especially in Fresno where 170 Gen Z’ers were surveyed and 99% answered “yes” to the continued support of the legalization of gay marriage.
We are also seeing many Gen Z youth come out in support of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. Almost 90% of Gen Z are in support of BLM according to a Business Insiders poll of 39,000 young Americans, with a large amount of support coming from social media apps like TikTok. Many Gen Z creators on this app have spoken out against police brutality and shown support for its victims. Hearing the stories of the lives that were taken creates anger and support for the Black Lives Matter movement in the mission to stop the abuse of Black Americans.
Because of this “revolutionary” attitude that so many Gen Z’ers have displayed, they have also faced significant backlash from older generations. But that hasn’t done anything to stop them. In fact, it’s led to even more political action, from the coining of “Shut up, Boomer” to the Area 51 raid and the Tulsa rally interference, Gen Z can’t be stopped.
Even facing the immense pressure of fixing a world that they did not break, they are confident that they are up to the challenge. Their catch phrase has become “they can’t stop us if we all do it” and with that mindset, Gen Z is poised to create true change.