The strength to change the world

April 14, 2018

To advocate for stricter gun laws, students across the nation walked out of school for 17 minutes March 14, each minute representing a student or faculty member who died in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Fla., one month before.

The event was completely student-organized, using social media as a platform to inform others.

As I stood outside for 17 minutes that day, I felt a sense of hope — hope in the thought that as we fight for gun regulations, as we fight for equal rights, as we fight racism and inequality, we can bring about change. I felt a sense of hope in the thought that in the near future, prejudice and hatred will be a thing of the past.

Even now, our generation is bringing about a positive change. Pakistani youth Malala Yousafzai garnered worldwide attention and won the Nobel Prize for advocating for girls’ right to education. Jazz Jennings is inspiring millions as she fights transphobia and advocates for transgender rights. Star Hagen-Esquerra, a 17-year-old from California, received national attention when she became the first person to put “nonbinary” on her driver’s license.

Across social media, we see teens spreading love and awareness. Teens are empowered, wanting to make a change and taking the initiative. And for every hate crime, for every act of prejudice, teens are fighting back.

The hardships of our generation perhaps cannot be compared to the turmoil that past generations faced; the problems that define our generation lie in the harmful societal constructs, in the prejudice, in the hatred, in the harmful beliefs and in the stereotypes that instill these beliefs.

I acknowledge that the path to a more accepting, inclusive future will inevitably be difficult because progress is slow and hate crimes and prejudice appear to be rising. People speak of how they have become desensitized to the tragedies so common in the media, how they have become apathetic about what’s been happening. We are living in a time where tragedy has become normalized.

But as I see it, our generation is fighting back, and we’re inspiring other generations to join the fight. Teens have realized that there is strength in numbers, and we’re using that strength to change the world. We will be doing it again Friday, April 20, for the next national high school walkout.

Niveditha Bala is a freshman at the Mandela International Magnet School. Contact her at niveditha.bala@mandela internationalschool.us.