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Youth Rights during the Pandemic – #16ToVote

Protesters during the summer. This was a group that protested in light of incident in Minneapolis, Minnesota after the George Floyd tragedy. Similar protests have also occurred this summer as a result of recent police shootings, including the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

With more than half a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, the rate of infections remains steady while casualties are still occurring throughout the U.S. but also around the world. However, while the latter as a whole comprises most of the casualties, the U.S. is by far the top for being the most infectious in the world & the top for most casualties. While this in itself is a tragedy, with various factors contributing to this ongoing pandemic, there is still another “pandemic” going on in the form of racism, and by extension, double standard of disfranchisement of vulnerable or historically marginalized populations. This includes tax paying teenagers who do not have a vote.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has had terrible consequences for those of the advanced age population, especially with those with pre-existing health conditions or health factors that put them at a disadvantage to survive COVID, it has had an effect on young persons as well.

The last school year was anything but normal- many athletic games, in person classes, graduations for many and other significant events in the lives of young people, were cancelled. For many with alternative means of substituting these events, online was the only option, which is completely different than previous experiences of their peers just the year before. This has really made the world feel upside down for people.

One also cannot deny the impact this has had on the economy, fueled by many young individuals either in high school or college, working to supplement their income to pay for bills, help family members, obtain luxury goods and/or all of the above. This is most apparent in the food service industry like fast food & restaurants, where many young people work. Not only have vulnerable populations of people in their 50’s and beyond have had to grapple with loss of income or work, but many young people have likely experienced the same.

The unfortunate tragedy in all of this is, unlike people they know in previous generations like parents, grandparents, mentors or friends, many young people aren’t able to voice their opinions to vote. Despite schools being inaccessible, pressure to start or use alternative means to go to school and even how their tax dollars are spent during this pandemic, many youths don’t have a voice. This needs to change.

Yes, there is currently a pandemic. Yes, it is unsafe to gather in large crowds. But many big cities continue to have protests in support of movements like Black Lives Matter, which is obviously a good thing. However, we should also have something along the lines of youth enfranchisement. This is currently not happening and it is disappointing.

At a time when many people claim to be “woke”, are using online methods to get their point across and are having to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic with friends, family and possibly, with or without social venues like school or a workplace, there is still a lack of “representation” for young voices. The latter is often lumped in with the rest of the protesters voicing their concerns on other issues, the most recent biggest one is police reform.

While this is also a good that needs to be supported, I also argue that we need to work towards societal reform as well, much like several organizations working to lower the voting age are doing. I think if we don’t take a step towards this endeavor soon, eventually, if and when the norms do return, not much will have changed for youth rights and its supporters.

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