Society calls the younger generation “tomorrow’s future” but doesn’t expect them to get involved in current events. Quarantine has caused people of all ages to become restless and eager to exert their pent up energies and frustrations in some fashion. An uprising in social justice swept through the United States on May 25th with the death of George Floyd. This tragic instance of police brutality propelled the Black Lives Movement into the spotlight with protests taking place across the country.
The protests involved folks of all different age groups and genders. This was mainly organized through social media. Generation Z came together across different platforms and protested police brutality in word and deed. These same age groups–teenagers and young adults, whose humor consisted of making fun of their own social anxiety–shifted their focus basically overnight to going head to head with racism.
Social media was not used just for fun. On Facebook, there were instances where businesses were being tagged in posts that showed their employee(s) posting inconsiderate comments about police brutality and/or Black Lives Matter. Students have also created anonymous social media accounts exposing racism within their own schools. Generation Z has also used social media to raise awareness about in-person protesting, using their large numbers of followers on platforms like Facebook to reach thousands of people. There was also a ‘Black Out Day’ across social media platforms, especially Instagram, where supporters of this cause posted a black photo in order to show solidarity.
Jada Jacobs, 14, was beginning her sophomore year at her local high school in New Jersey when she was on the board to organize a local protest. She spent three weeks reaching out to the local police department to ensure she was abiding by the appropriate guidelines. It was her experiences that caused her to want to be more involved.
“It really became noticeable to me when my science teacher treated me differently than my white classmates. My friend who was Caucasian hit me on my arm pretty hard when we were joking around and my teacher blamed me,” Jacobs said during the interview. “My friend stood up for me saying it was the other person but my teacher didn’t believe us.” According to Jada, this was just one of many incidents that occurred over the course of the school year. She did involve her parents, who approached the administration demanding an apology. The teacher stated she could not be prejudiced against Jacobs due to having a biracial niece.
Unfortunately, Jacobs longer felt comfortable in the school’s environment and is in the process of transferring to Burlington County Institute of Technology. She continues to be involved in the Black Lives Matter Movement, attending protests and sharing informational posts on social media platforms such as Snapchat and Instagram.
Jada Jacobs is just one of many teenagers who are speaking up about their experiences with racism trying to fix the problem. Anonymous, a 22 year old, also spoke out about her experiences with racism in her everyday life. “I was stocking the aisle at my previous job and when an elderly white lady came down the aisle, saw me and hurried away gripping her purse.” Anonymous continued, “I feel bad as a black person because we don’t get the respect we’re due.” She is currently studying physical therapy at her local college where she hopes to bring medical equality to ensure people of color are given fair treatment. “Malcolm X and MLK made great strides in racial equality but it is clear that we still have a long way to go,” Anonymous added.
These brave teenagers and young adults are actively working to achieve racial equality. They are not alone. Celebrities have been using their social platforms as another means of reaching out to their millions of followers in order to spread the message of acceptance. Before 2020, when we thought of social media, we might have viewed it as a shallow, pointless waste of time, where the goal is simply to seek attention. It is now clear that social media is a platform that can be used to achieve racial equality for all.
Mercedes Jacobs is in her last semester majoring in English. A surprise twist is she plans on pursing a career in the pharmaceutical field upon graduation.