Civics For Change: Issues Young People Care About
Young people have always been known to be passionate and vocal about the issues we’re navigating as a nation, and Millennials and Generation Z are no exception. With the 2024 Presidential Election creeping up quickly, it’s a good time for us to take a look at what is driving young people to the polls and the issues we care about most. According to The Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE), young people are most energized and mobilized to make their voices heard by issues like LGBTQ+ justice, climate change, reproductive justice, gun control, and racial justice.
Currently, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is tracking over four hundred anti-LGBTQ+ bills nationwide. The bills aim to restrict queer Americans from accessing basic liberties every individual deserves: healthcare, public accommodations, education, free speech and expression, accurate identification cards, and other basic rights. According to the Pew Research Center, more than half of Americans generally feel that the legality of same-sex marriage is a good thing for society. Despite this, some lawmakers are ignoring the will of the general public and pushing legislation that would make it harder to exist as a queer person in America. The Equality Act, a bill that would federally protect the basic rights of LGBTQ+ folks, made it through the House of Representatives and is now awaiting Senate approval. While we may feel like our hands are tied as young people, they’re not! To take action, use this resource from The Human Rights Campaign to contact your Senator and urge them to support the Equality Act.
With Earth Day approaching, we are again sharing and seeing stunning photos of our beautiful planet alongside calls to action to do our part in protecting it. The issue of our climate changing is a complex problem, one that Generation Z and Millennials will be faced with solving. As we can see from these mapped projections, climate change will not discriminate using party lines. Whether we want to acknowledge it or not, the Earth’s climate is changing, and if left unaddressed, will only continue to lead to more intense hurricanes, wildfires, floods, rises in sea level, diminishing crop yields, and more. The Agriculture Resilience Act seeks to invest in farmers to empower them to achieve net-zero emissions by 2040, helping out the planet in feeding the nation. Support the farmers who marched for the bill by contacting your representatives in Congress and voicing your support for the Agriculture Resilience Act. To learn more about the intersections of climate change, civic engagement, and music, check out Season 1 Ep. 8 of our Live The Legacy Podcast with Rev Yearwood of The Hip Hop Caucus.
When Roe v. Wade was overturned in 2022, we wrote about some of the questions we had, namely what can we do? At this point in time, any given state’s residents are aware of whether their right to safe reproductive healthcare is protected or threatened, limited, or removed altogether. This map created by The Center For Reproductive Rights outlines the level of access by state. Based on data from the 2022 Midterms and statewide elections throughout 2023, it’s clear that young people are paying attention to what’s happening at the federal, state, and local levels and are turning out at the polls in historic records due to issues like access to safe reproductive healthcare. As for what we can do: continue to get out the vote, and get ready to organize ahead of the 2024 Presidential Election. Continue to make your voice heard, and for those with the time and resources to do so, volunteer for and support local abortion clinics and abortion funds. Finally, remain vigilant on the state of access to abortion and contraceptives in your state.
Guns are the leading cause of death for young people in the United States. As of April 18th, there have been one hundred and sixty six mass shootings in the U.S. so far in 2023, more than one a day. Since the horrific shooting that left the community in Parkland, Florida, to grieve seventeen souls in 2018, AGF partner March For Our Lives has been working to end gun violence and build a future wherein over half of our young voters are not living in fear for their personal safety due to guns, like we are now. Just last week in the same state, Gov. DeSantis signed a bill into law permitting the carry of firearms without any permit or prior training required, to take effect on July 1, 2023. This is another complex issue, as guns are deeply intertwined in the history and culture of the United States. To put it into perspective, there are more gun shops than there are McDonald’s or Starbucks locations. To take action, support and stay up to date with organizations like March For Our Lives, Everytown For Gun Safety, Sandy Hook Promise, and Moms Demand Action.
Racism in the United States has many forms and appearances, from the systemic racism baked into our nation’s laws and institutions to the overt racism and resurgence of white supremacist groups spewing hate. Following the path from slavery to the United States now having the highest incarceration rate of any country in the world, we must recognize the ways in which the criminalization of Black bodies, voting rights, and the labor force are all connected. The 13th Amendment made slavery and involuntary servitude illegal, except as a punishment for a crime: a devastating loophole and reality for the millions of Black Americans in prison. The fight for racial justice and equity has evolved throughout the centuries, with the work from generations past remaining far from complete. Andrew Goodman, James Earl Chaney, and Michael Schwerner all dreamed of a better future, a future our generation hopes to build to end the fight for good.
While young people tend to care quite a bit about these issues, they impact all of us no matter our age, the color of our skin, who we love, where we live, or who we vote for. Sure, these are complex issues, but what is not complex is what we owe each other as Americans: the right to a life of liberty and happiness, free from fear and hatred. Help us in building the future we deserve by contacting your representatives and urging them to support the Youth Voting Rights Act, legislation designed to protect our right as young people to shape our future. Be sure to stay tuned for upcoming installments in this mini series on the main issues driving young voters to the polls!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mia Matthews is the Program and Communications Manager at The Andrew Goodman Foundation. In her position, she works with student leaders and in communications surrounding their work. She currently lives in Orlando, Florida.