When we call America a “giant melting pot”, we need to be respectful of all the cultures that it is composed of. Sadly, even though we make up an important part of American culture, Asian Americans commonly face racist remarks and actions from our communities and those around us. Growing up as a young Asian American girl, I could not count how many times I’ve been told to “open my eyes” or “go back to China”. Although these remarks are extremely harmful and are not okay to say, there are other ways in which I have faced racism, ways that not everyone believes to be harmful. Hearing guys say offhandedly in conversations that they “prefer not to date Asians”. Watching Chinese culture appropriated in the media time and time again. Scrolling through my Instagram feed just to see post after post of non-Asians using the “fox eye pose”, a picture-taking position that emphasizes pulling back the eyes and brows, when my Asian friends and I have been teased our whole lives over the shape of our eyes. Growing up with TV shows that only promoted stereotypes of Asians: that they’re nerdy, school-oriented, and have little importance in the plot other than to advance others’ storylines. Realizing my South and Southeast Asian peers are left out of conversations pertaining to race because American culture has taught us to think of all Asians as only East Asians. It’s important to think about if what you’re saying or doing is harmful to any specific race or culture, even if it’s the smallest remark. Small remarks build up and reinforce harmful stereotypes and prejudices. To dismantle the culture of normalized Asian racism, we need to start having these conversations about microaggressions within our communities and not be scared to call others out on their harmful remarks.

By Cheryl, 16, Co-Founder of Gen Z: WWTL Texas Chapter

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People will tell you education is important for literally everything in life: to get a good job, to make a lot of money, to elevate yourself in society for an overall happier life. No matter what reason you’ve heard throughout your life as an attempt to convince you to further your education, I can almost guarantee none of them included the fact that education plays a fundamental role in activism work. And, honestly, why would they? Current school curriculums don’t teach a history that aids activists. In fact, most school curriculums teach history from a lens so narrow, many students graduate US high schools without the tools to understand how the past has shaped the world around them.

The first thing that anybody needs to know about education is that it’s as dangerous as it is useful. And if schools teach you a truthful history, they are arming you with a weapon that’s dangerous enough to bring down anything that has power over you. Those who pay attention are able to see how easy it is for one action to affect society for centuries to come. And while predicting the future is nearly impossible, it’s important to know that once the past is forgotten, history has a tendency to repeat itself.

It’s easy to look back in time and realize that where we are now is not that far off from where we were fifty years ago. Know that fights, riots, protests were happening. Look further. Dig deeper. Educate yourself and find out when it started, how it started, who started it. It may not be taught in schools but there are resources out there, seek them out. There are people that aim to hold us down and keep us uneducated about the truth of our history. Show them that they won’t succeed, that we’re breaking through their attempts to cloud an already obscure past in order to pave the way for a clear future with opportunity for everyone, not just the privileged few.

Realize that activism is about more than just visible oppression. It’s also about the oppression nobody talks about, the oppression that people don’t notice is there, the oppression that people have ignored since the beginning of time. Advocate for POC history beyond colonization, for non-abstinence sex education, for equal sex education opportunities for members of the LGBTQ+ community. Push for curriculum reforms. Normalize the idea of a well-rounded education without the setbacks of discrimination based on sex, race, and sexual orientation.

Whether it’s in school, or at home on the internet, education is the most important step of activism. It teaches you the gray areas of life that people deny exist. The humanities, like English and History, make clear that life isn’t black or white and that society cannot thrive when there is no room for modification or adjustment. The sciences, like Biology, Health, and Anatomy, teach that your genitalia does not define you; that the color of your skin does not weaken or strengthen you - and at the end of the day, it is only logical we be treated as equals, due to one simple truth: we are all human.

By Jasmyn, 17

The youth have always been at the forefront of change. On February 1st, 1960 four African-American young men, ranging from age 17 to 19, sat at a lunch counter in North Carolina and refused to leave. Within 3 days, 300 people had joined them. By the summer of the same year, lunch counters across the US were desegregating. By taking a stand, the youth voice fundamentally changed the nation. The Greensboro Four as they were called then went on to found the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), with allyship from adults like Civil Rights Activist Ella Baker. The SNCC went on to be a major leader in the Civil Rights Movement, promoting voter registration and participating in the Freedom Rides. 

Youth in the past like the Greensboro Four responded to injustice and changed the course of America for the better. 

Today, more than ever, the world as we know it demands change. Private prisons are exploiting inmates for profit, people of color are being murdered by those charged with their very protection, police roam the halls of our schools as the new normal, and the information we teach in public schools still is told through the lens of the heterosexual, cisgender, white male. 

To counter these issues, to present solutions, and ensure human rights for every person on the planet, simple platitudes will only go so far. Real initiatives must be put underway, the hours must be put in, and the youth voices are the ones that must be leading this charge. Every generation faces unique challenges as well as age-old adversities, such as racism, sexism, and other forms of ignorant bigotry and hate. And in every generation, the youth must decide to fight to change the status quo instead of letting it dictate the terms. Nothing will appease us besides fundamental positive change.

As youth in the past have stood for what is right, Generation Z is doing the same in our own way. We are leading protests, writing policy, and using social media to amplify our voices and spread awareness. No other generation has had access to so much information nor the ability to be connected with so many people around the globe at this age. That knowledge and those connections are fostering a passion that will make us the generation to not just make an impact, but build a more equitable and sustainable world. 

By Noelle Faiza, 16, Policy Lead

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