A lot has happened last year, but one thing that still sticks out to me is the aftermath of the Parkland shooting.
The shooting is a tragedy in a series of other, similar tragedies, and it would’ve been indistinguishable from the rest if it weren’t for one thing: the kids. The survivors of the shooting are taking over the narrative and controlling it, preventing anyone from forgetting what happened or using it for their own motives. They are the heroes in this story. Everyone is fawning over them, and rightfully so—they’re incredibly inspiring.
But there’s always a sense of surprise, too, like no one can believe that a bunch of teenagers are so articulate and passionate and politically aware. In an interview with David Hogg and Cameron Kasky, Bill Maher said, “Watching you—I mean, you’re so together. And all of you—not just you, the other people from your school I’ve seen on TV. Calm, articulate—I honestly thought kids were a lot stupider.”
Their passion doesn’t surprise me. Their capacity to create change doesn’t, either. What does is the fact that people are still so shocked about it.
The truth is, kids have been incredible for ages. I don’t mean to say that every kid is a born activist, or that every kid spends every waking moment campaigning for change. I certainly don’t. But we grew up questioning things and learning not to take no for an answer. We came of age with activists like Malala Yousefzai and celebrities like Zendaya, Amandla Stenberg and Yara Shahidi for role models. We came into consciousness with Harry Potter and learned to recognize fascism and bigotry when it came to life in front of us. We heard the grumblings of our parents and taught ourselves to look behind the mirage. We learned from the mistakes of others and we don’t want to make them again.
Kids have been screaming for change for ages, and millennials are the backbone of almost every social justice movement. We march. We protest. We yell. We don’t shut up when we’re told to. We don’t let others speak for us. This is just the first time people have been willing to listen.
The Parkland kids deserve every bit of respect and admiration they’ve got and then some. I will never say otherwise. But their intelligence and drive shouldn’t be such a surprise to people. They’re not heroes because they’re kids. They are heroes because of their bravery, their strength, and their drive.
When I say kids are the future, I don’t just mean it literally. We are the future. We won’t give up, and we won’t accept the status quo. We’ll fight until we create the world we want to have.
I’m just glad everyone else is starting to catch up.