While I am a proud American, I can’t help but notice the shift our country has encountered since I was a little girl.
Growing up after 9/11, I never knew an America that was not afraid. I never knew a country without a beefed up police system. I never knew a home that didn’t throw themselves into wars over, “isms.”
However, I was taught of the brilliance that made up our country. I was taught that a pack of rebellious revolutionists developed a new type of warfare to defeat a tyrannical world dominating military. I was taught of the heroic defiance that our black brothers and sisters went through in order to ensure basic civil rights. I was taught to protest when things were unjust. I was taught that talk of change was best served with a cool glass of compromise.
But I never had the opportunity to put these lessons into practice.
I was ten years old when Trayvon Martin was killed, 11 when George Zimmerman was acquitted. I was 12 when Eric Garner, Michael Brown, and Tamir Rice were killed, 13 when the police officers responsible were acquitted. I was 14 when Alton Sterling and Philando Castile were killed, 15 when the police were both exonerated of their crimes. I was 16 when Stephon Clark was shot seven times, and I was 17 when his killers walked away as free men on the account of being afraid for their lives.
By the time I had turned 18, I had seen over 140 different video clips of the killing of black men and women surface through the news. By my 18th birthday, I had seen two wars, more than 230 school shootings since Columbine, a $6.6 billion dollar cut from money allocated to public schools in a ten year span, two major recessions, two contested president-elects, 20 category 5 hurricanes since 2000, two travel bans on minority communities, and a literal internment camp.
Although I was taught of the amazing history that shaped America forever, I was also taught that my generation was incapable and lacked the ability to continue this legacy. I was taught that it was better for the adults to discuss these issues and find solutions. I was taught that I was too young to be outraged, too little to understand the severity, and far too left to ever find any reasonable compromise.
But I’m 18 now. And so are my fellow peers who have also experienced this trauma since they were little boys and girls. And we have found our voices.
Now, regardless of the backlash of our older generational counterparts, we have decided to shape our own future. But this doesn’t mean we aren’t being contested.
I have heard the complaints of our older generations. I have come to understand that they are unsure of our willingness to compromise. And I have one thing to tell them:
Have you ever heard of bartering?
We know that we cannot dismantle the police system. We know that we cannot impeach an unfavorable candidate with the snap of the finger. We know that we cannot immediately stop gun violence across America. We know that we cannot open our borders indefinitely to allow anyone from anywhere into our country. We know.
But we also know the basic rules to bartering.
In order to talk someone down from their pedestal, we have to shout outrageously high or low prices. This insulting price, allows for our authority to withdraw their noses from the sky and stare us down.
That is all we need.
If we have the ability to be heard, if we have the ability to lock eyes with our oppressors, it is harder for them to view us as their pawns. Instead of wooden playing pieces, we are now human beings with the same vital organs as them.
That is how politics work. Senators and representatives meet in archaic rooms in order to discuss bills to fit their agendas. Senators pushing for an increase in the casino cap to ensure their SuperPAC re-election contribution. Representatives fighting for a revise in the national teacher contracts in order to please the unions into setting up a political fund in their name. We know that these bills are pushed through by providing favors for fellow congressmen and women. We know that threats to another congressmen or women are spewed in order to ensure their vote.
But we also know that they live by the bartering rule.
We know every separate candidate has an agenda, whether it be money or power. And we know that the people possess the power to influence these candidates.
So what are we doing? We are bartering.
You see, my generation currently possesses the power. We are so powerful, we have completely halted the talks of a global pandemic, and replaced it with our agenda. And our government is well aware of this power.
We know that the largest people on the pedestal are beginning to shift their noses from the sky and stare us down.
An entire generation has noticed this shift and we are running. Running as fast as we can to victory.
We know that police will still be containing the American public. We know that we will not successfully defund the police. But we also know that our congressmen and women are no longer confiding in each other in order to assure their re-election. They are confiding in us.
At the end of the day, our requests are not cynical. We are fed up. Our timeline for violence has not been over decades. It has been over a few years and we are fed up. We are asking that our authority ensures the safety of our generation, regardless of race, gender, religion, or orientation. Although it seems simple, many societies and generations have fought for this before and failed.
After George Floyd’s death, it took nearly two weeks for Minneapolis to look into alternative options to police. We have proven that we have the ability to take it down if necessary. But that’s not truly what we want. Isn’t it so much more inviting if we start out rash and end with a peaceful solution to protect our minority brothers and sisters? Won’t it make our authority feel accomplished if they managed to talk us down from such a high price to pay? Little do they know, that is what we wanted all along. A compromise? I wouldn’t say that. Truly, I think we managed to methodically place our pawns in order take out the queen that is systematic racism.
We are done asking to sit at the adults table. We are done with being cast aside for the grown-ups to talk. We are more than what the grown-ups can even imagine.
We are a pack of rebellious revolutionists, and we have just developed a new type of warfare.
Our children will not be able to count the days that black men and women were spared on one hand. Our children will not invest in bullet proof backpacks. Our children will learn to embrace the immigrants that have arrived in search of a better life. And they will be thankful that we ran with our power.
I am a proud American, and I can’t help but notice the shift our country will encounter after my generation transitions into adulthood. And I cannot wait for it to happen.