From coast to coast, a massive protest movement spearheaded by America’s youth sprung up in every major city. Media coverage was non-stop for a while, and even now, several months later, the protests continue in many cities. In response to such a massive outpouring of fervor, passion and earnest calls for change, the people in charge did … nothing? A handful of United States senators donned Kente scarves for some reason and said, “that’s enough activism for today.” Thousands of young people threw themselves at the system like a tsunami only to be reminded that the people they were trying to reach live on stilted houses on hills, completely unbothered by the movements of the waves.
If you’re a young person, you don’t matter.
Who’s in your corner, young people? Politicians don’t court your vote in any meaningful way. They don’t listen to your demands and they don’t operate in your interest. There are a handful of congresspersons who act like young people are remotely a part of their constituencies. When the first COVID stimulus dropped, many young people received nothing. Not for any good reason, but because congress didn’t care to consider that some young people claimed as dependents still had bills to pay and needed money too. An entire age range became an afterthought, and now that rent is due and evictions are looming, they aren’t offering relief. It’s not even cynical to think that if a college kid with no support system went homeless, went hungry, or died their representative would genuinely not care. They don’t vote enough, don’t have enough money to make large donations and don’t have ties to power enough to matter—to be willing to fight for. They are political afterthoughts, worthy of no respect or pittance.
If you’re a young person, ask yourself honestly: when was the last time you felt listened to? Young people are not a monolith, but they tend to support issues aimed at improving their dismal material conditions in the United States relative to other generations. For example, around 85 percent of people aged 18-34 favor raising the minimum wage. Considering that this is an issue with broad-reaching bi-partisan support in every age-range and demographic, the inability of the government to support the mostly young workers crying out for higher wages feels like either a deliberate spit in the face or unconscionable act of indifference aimed at the youth in this country. The same could be said of inaction towards healthcare, criminal justice reform, access to housing, or any of the other areas of need routinely begged to be addressed by youth activists. If you’re a young person, your voice is ignored.
The oft touted solution for this problem is to get the young people to vote. Youth voter turnout is abysmal, meaning listening-to and trying to win over young people is not needed to win an election. However, many barriers to voting curb the ability for young people to vote. Election Day is not a national holiday, so a young worker may have to work instead of standing in long ballot lines. Speaking of which, in many states, lines at the polls are hours long because election offices close down polling stations as a form of voter suppression. Additionally, voter ID laws disproportionately disenfranchise young minority voters who are more transient or unable to get IDs. If the people in charge really cared about you, wouldn’t they want you to vote? If they wanted you to vote, wouldn’t they be doing everything they could to do away with these restrictions? Shouldn’t they be hootin’ and hollerin’ and making the biggest fuss imaginable to make sure you can perform your civic duty? Well, collectively, they are not. If you’re a young person, they don’t want you to vote.
So if they don’t want to listen to you, don’t want to fight for you, and don’t even want you to vote, do you even matter? If you don’t matter, does that bother you? At some point, young people are going to need to find a way to make themselves matter, but until then, they should renounce any loyalties to a system that ignores them. Maybe they should make their own system.
Vincent Rendon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @VinceSagebrush.