By NADIA WILLIAMS
There is an ongoing stereotype amongst older citizens claiming that millennials, Generation Z and other minorities cannot do anything right, especially participate in politics. Young people vote significantly less than they have in the past and many do not seem interested in the political process.
It is assumed that this lack of interest stems from unwillingness on the youth’s part, but it is much more than simple disinterest. The youth and other minorities are systematically barred from participating in politics.
The political system in the United States is elitist, and as it is revealed more and more everyday with social media, news or even WikiLeaks. Minorities are aware that they have to find alternative outlets to make their voice heard.
Election Day itself is on a Tuesday, a working day. The kinds of people who can afford to take off and go to the polls are typically the ones who are older, more established with the most money in their pockets.
Those people are also the same ones who can use money to support interest groups aligning with their beliefs. Lobbyists (those who work to influence government interest on behalf of those same interest groups) hold more power than ordinary citizens.
Since many parts of the government do not represent the needs of the public, the public has taken their needs into their own hands. The youth and other minorities are not necessarily politically apathetic, they just do not participate in normalized ways.
Social media has transformed the political landscape, and minorities are catching on. Movements such as Black Lives Matter, Me Too and Times Up showcase topics that are typically pushed under the rug like racism, police brutality, sexual assault and abuse.
Through social media like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, ordinary citizens have a platform to share their ideas, start grassroot campaigns, gain support and shift culture. There is no denying that the Internet is a platform for negative ideas as well, websites like 4Chan promote racist, misogynistic and often incorrect ideas which are promoted as facts.
The Internet is neither a paradise nor hell itself, it is what the users make of it. What separated the Internet from the government is that all citizens, even elitists, are just as powerful as they are susceptible when they are online.
Yes, there are qualms with social media participation, such as trolls and algorithms to say the least, but there are significant qualms with our government as well. Not every law and policy can be shifted with social media alone. Voter ID laws are still extremely popular in southern states. Gerrymandering allows certain political parties to maintain power, even in Maryland.
Voter ID laws require people to show some kind of identification before voting. According to the ACLU, 43 states have voter ID laws and seven states have strict ID laws, which require them to obtain a limited set of state-issued IDs in order to vote.
Voter ID laws disproportionately affect minorities because they usually have the hardest time obtaining IDs due to the Department of Motor Vehicles being closed during the weekend which is the only time most of them have to go to the DMV if they are lucky enough to not work on the weekends.
Gerrymandering occurs when state boundaries are manipulated to favor a specific political party. In Maryland, the Democratic Party is favored because of gerrymandering. As a result, parts of Maryland such as the Eastern Shore, which is mostly Republican, do not have much political influence.
Systematic barriers like these discourage people from political participation because they see the obvious limits the government is trying to put on their voice, so minorities have found their own voice.
The youth and minorities should be applauded rather than slandered. They are responding to barriers with organized action, whether by creating petitions on change.com against deportation, marching on Washington for women’s rights or nationwide school walk-outs in protest of gun violence.
Image from Nashville Public Radio.