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Gen Z: The Future of Activism and Face of Protests


In the United States, protests have been happening for decades and have sparked significant changes. After the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. and other leaders in the movement met with President Kennedy and Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson at the White House to discuss a civil rights bill.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights of 1965 were enacted within the years of the march. Nearly 600,000 people demonstrated against the Vietnam War on November 15, 1969, and in recent years, 3,300,000 to 5,600,000 marched for women’s rights on January 21, 2017.

For the first time, we’re seeing all races, ethnicities, and genders come together to support the same call for justice. This era’s civil rights protest might look different than they have in the past, but the battle is still relevant and is now being amplified globally through young voices.

When Did the Protests Start?

The first George Floyd protest broke out on May 26 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Every day since, peaceful protests, rallies, and marches have happened daily across the United States. 

Protestors have been continuously fighting for racial equity through action and demonstration both on the streets and at home through social media platforms. Many are breaking stay at home orders, opting to join the masses out at a local protest to stand up for what is right in spite of the global pandemic and use an action to ignite change within the system. Even health officials are dubbing protesting as a “profound public health intervention” amid a pandemic, as racism in and of itself is a public health issue that has existed before coronavirus.

Americans aren’t the only ones breaking stay at home orders to stand up for human rights. What initially began as a nationwide spread of anti-racist protests has now become an international battle, sparking similar protests in Europe and unveiling the systemic oppression in their own country’s history.

In Paris, thousands of people have been gathering and protesting in France’s capital in global outrage. While many signs mimicked those seen in the United States, Parisians have drawn similarities from the George Floyd case to another that hit close to home: the 2016 death of 24-year-old Adama Traoré. At one protest, nearly 20,000 people came to show their support in Paris. More protests sparked across other major cities in France, including 2,500 in Lille, 1,800 in Marseille, and 1,200 in Lyon. 

“What is happening in the United States is an echo of what is happening in France,” Assa Traoré, the older sister of the late Adama, said to a crowd at a protest in the city’s capital. 

Teenagers in France have noted that historically, the government has denounced the atrocities that happen in the United States while turning a blind eye on similar cases. While the event that sparked public outrage may have taken place in the United States, demonstrations across the world are standing in solidarity with the country while focusing inward on their own past discriminatory behavior. 

Continuing the Conversation Online

Gen Zers are using social media to their advantage during an unprecedented time of civil rights. Through their influence, they’re able to express their support and document their experiences on the streets fighting for justice. Surveys have shown that 90 percent of Gen Z Americans support Black Lives Matter. 73 percent of Gen Z are using Instagram to show their support while 26% are using TikTok, 25% are using Twitter, 13% are using Facebook.

Amid social media platforms being widely used to spread information about racial injustice and the current protests, TikTok has come under fire for alleged censorship. The platform was accused of banning the hashtags #GeorgeFloyd and #BlackLivesMatter amid the protests that began in Minneapolis. In a viral series of tweets, TikTok users pointed out that those two hashtags seemed to be blocked and accusations were made that the app was using censorship and discriminating against Black voices. When users searched those hashtags, they weren’t able to see posts that used them in the caption and the search term showed that it had zero views.

Amid the controversy, TikTok was able to address and fix the “bug” that affected view count displays, adding, “While this technical issue affected a wide range of terms, we recognize that it, unfortunately, came at a painful time for the Black community in particular. We deeply value the diverse voices on TikTok, and we apologize for the confusion and pain this situation caused.”

How Gen Z Is Getting Involved With Ongoing Protests

Young people in America and globally have become outraged with the state of the country and want to use their voices and presence to wake up the older generations to see what is unfolding in their country and the changes that need to be made. Gen Z activists have become leaders in the space, amplifying their voices on social media and taking that same energy to the streets when it comes time to protest. 

Even in France, Gen Z is letting their voices be heard among the noise, pulling back the curtain on the more secretive racist tendencies of those who are meant to serve and protect. Some top cabinet officials in France don’t believe that the problem exists, making it difficult to recognize the deep-rooted oppression. Teenagers have come out to protest in support of justice, knowing that racism in France is just as prevalent in a country like the US. Just as there was unrest in 2014 during the Ferguson protests when everything was swept under the rug, France is having their own revival, waking themselves up again four years later to face the reality of its legacy of oppression.

In the past, the calls for justice would come from the group affected. Today, we’re seeing everyone get involved in any way that they can, whether it’s protesting in the streets or using their platforms and influence to make changes. It’s everyone versus racism in 2020 and the fight doesn’t appear to be stopping until justice has been served. It’s no longer enough to just not be racist––it’s about the fight to be anti-racist.


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