Civil rights and social justice are terms which have been thrown around in my education and profession constantly. However, the state of our country today suggests that these need to be much more than classroom buzzwords, but instead should turn into action and initiative.
In every social justice movement throughout history, we can see a wave of progression followed by a wave of hate, fear, and stubbornness to change. Progress is not a straight incline, but a sine curve which, with any luck, slopes gradually upward. The late 1800’s saw progress as black men and women became free men and women, and this was followed by the lynchings and protests of the early 20th century. This wave of hate and discrimination spurred the Civil Rights movements of the 1950’s and 60’s. Women’s rights saw great progress in the 1920’s and 30’s, but a wave of oppressive culture and legislation was the response in the 1940’s and 50’s. The 80’s was the peak of women’s rights, which is reflected in the media of the time, and has since seen a steep decline to the modern era, much like the response to the Civil Rights movement.
As a young woman growing up in these times, where protests and publications are responded to with fear and police action, I am afraid. I am afraid because the poverty and anxiety of the lower classes is prompting more and more people to speak up and take a stand, but the power and money of those “above” us is growing so rapidly that, although we are not outnumbered we are outmaneuvered.
That young men and women are being arrested and killed because they exist. That being in the wrong place at the wrong time is leading to more and more “accidents” or “misunderstandings.”
What I say to my fellow millennials is that we must not give up. We must stand hard for the principles and values which we have grown up with. We must keep our minds open, join together across race, class, gender, and religion. We are all fighting the same fight. We are fighting for our right to exist in our own homes, in our own neighborhoods, in our own country. We are fighting for peace. We are fighting for justice. And only together will we be able to challenge the wave of backlash which comes from progress. United we stand.