This is the third of twelve posts today honoring the election of Barack Obama as the next President of the United States.
In the history of the U.S. There comes a time in the history of every major social movement, including feminism, African American civil rights, and gay rights, when the architects and leaders of these important movements had to identify the exact ills that stopped them from moving forward towards their goals of liberation, empowerment, integration and equality. I believe the youth movement is rapidly coming towards this juncture.
Let’s begin by naming the foremost barrier to youth rights around the world today. Rather than blame ignorance or denial, I believe its vital to identify fear as the single greatest barrier affecting youth today. This is the fear of the unknown, the fear of the different, the fear of “the Other” that so many minority groups find themselves facing from their oppressors. When targeted at young people scientists and sociologists have labeled this as ephebiphobia, which I’ve written about before. This fear has more than manifested itself in recent times, which I became more sensitive to in 2003 after reading an article from the Christian Science Monitor quoting James Carville talking about George Bush’s legislative tax schemes:
“This is not class warfare, this is generational warfare. This administration and old wealthy people have declared war on young people. That is the real war that is going on here. And that is the war we’ve got to talk about.”
Along with Henry Giroux’s hard-hitting analyses in his early 2000s books, Carville’s words were a door-opening for my awareness, calling me to pay attention to the differing realities of youth today, versus the realities I’d faced as a young person. The power of youth today extends much deeper, much more sophisticatedly than young people in the 1980s and 1990s, when I was a teenager. Since then youth have actualized their power in the form of economic power, technological savviness, and cultural influence that has never been witnessed before.
Perhaps these elements individually wouldn’t have constituted the threat that many adults percieve. However, I think this election cycle has given many entrenched adultists a more urgent reason to be fearful: Young people have shown their true power by bringing together the wieght and strength of their might, tying together their individual and collective economic, technologic, and cultural abilities with political will. By doing that young people have undisputably, clearly and forevermore demonstrated that not only do youth have the ability, but they have the fortitude to see through their intention, ideas, knowledge and actions to create change. In other words, Youth Voice has clearly shown itself to be a force to be reconded with.
That should give any young person hope, and if you are scared of youth, now you have a clear reason why. Let’s work together to change those opinions, hearts and minds – because we can.