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Presentation High School

Opinion: Improving race relations in America begins with youth

In the wake of the 2016 U.S. Election, race relations in America have grown increasingly more tense. With the #BlackLivesMatter movement gaining a significant following, as well as the increase of protests since the immigration ban was signed into effect, a movement has begun across the nation to advocate for racial equality. However, that may not be enough.

According to a Times poll released in 2016, the majority of the public is divided on whether current race relations are “good” or “bad,” with many leaning towards “bad.” Yet, the future of race relations in America lies not within politics, but within the American education system– specifically in youth, who have a large role to play in bridging the racial divide.

Knowledge of racial issues begins in childhood and progresses through adolescence, eventually producing results that emphasize the importance of cultural education.

Higher-education institutions such as Stanford University have been supporting this need by recognizing the importance of youth activism. Recently, high school senior Ziad Ahmed posted a tweet on social media, in which he revealed the answer for one of the questions on his Stanford application. His response to “What matters to you, and why?” was typing “#BlackLivesMatter” 100 times. Ahmed received his acceptance letter to Stanford on Apr. 1, and was immediately shocked.

“I didn’t think that I would get admitted to Stanford at all,” he told Mic afterwards. “But it’s quite refreshing to see that they view my unapologetic activism as an asset rather than a liability.”

It is evident that Stanford regarded the young activist’s application with a special distinction, one that ultimately translated to his acceptance. This incident is only one of many, and while Ahmed does not represent the collective experiences of marginalized communities as a whole, his action has shown what youth can do to affect a positive change within the broader impact of race in America.

The results of a recent Gallup poll conducted in 2017 show that 42 percent of U.S. citizens are concerned for the future of race relations in America, as compared to the previous 17 percent in 2014. In today’s political climate, activism is an asset as much as it is an educational endeavor. In that sense, Ahmed achieved the recognition so few youth obtain– the recognition that true passion is a quality that doesn’t lie in a student’s academic achievements, but in a one’s desire to serve a cause greater than oneself.

There’s no doubt that in the current field of race relations United States is at a critical period in time. Given the circumstances, youth are needed more than ever to serve as a voice of the next generation, especially to cultivate diversity within their communities. It is only by acknowledging the importance of youth who break ceilings, youth who defy boundaries, and youth who bring about social change can we as a country take into account not just those included within the binary, but also those that fall outside of it.