Young people are often taken for granted as far as their capacity of solving political and social issues goes. In fact, youth play an integral role in fighting political and social issues, and should be recognized as such.
Due to the accelerated development of technology and its greater accessibility to the masses, along with the increasing of international commercial trades, there has been a process of economic interdependency among nations. This has, in turn, caused a never-seen-before contact and dialogue among different cultures, due mainly to the democratization of both knowledge and information by the Internet, and the shrinking of distances by quicker and cheaper means of transportation.
But the main point is that this all contributes to a great and enriching experience: the opportunity of democratization has given us to get to know distinct cultures, unique habits, and ways of thinking.
We learn various forms of interpreting the world and, therefore, a new exposition of what is not common to us, putting us out of our comfort zone and expanding our perspectives.
Being different is something inherent to us all, and we should not worry about losing this singular feature instead. Whenever a judgmental thought comes to our mind, we must frankly ask ourselves: what gives us the right to judge a person for being different? Is it morally right for us to discriminate someone by the simple fact that he or she acts not the way we want them to act, looks differently from the way we want them to look, was born somewhere far or speaks a foreign language, or do not have the same financial conditions as ours?
We have to learn we are not the center of the world, and that it is not up to us to dictate another person’s life. Diversity is something intrinsic to society, and it is what makes the world a nice place to live. Imagine how boring it would be if everyone was the same?
Fortunately, the youth of today seem to be much more conscious about discrimination than older generations were. Young people nowadays are dealing with differences much more openly, respecting social heterogeneity, and even stimulating the uncommon.
However, despite all these positive changes, prejudice seems not to go away, and it is due to both historical and social factors. In Brazil, for example, prejudices and faults left by slavery still affect black people: according to data from IBGE — the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics — in 2014 unemployment among black people was 50% higher than among the white population, who had a six years greater life expectancy than those of African descendants, and 1.6 extra years of study; besides, black people represented 65.1% of homicide victims, and held a 60% higher infant mortality rate than white population.
Discrimination does not only apply to Brazil.
According to a Pew Research Center survey, 52% of Hispanics in the U.S. said they had suffered from discrimination or had been treated unfairly owing to their race or ethnicity. Furthermore, according to information from The Independent, in 2015 racially motivated crimes increased by 15%, religious-motivated crimes had a 43% rise, crimes targeting the disabled went up by 25%, and crimes against gays and lesbians increased by 22% in the United Kingdom.
As we can see, society still has much more to develop, requiring severe modifications so that differences can no longer be a reason for hate, but for learning. There, young people play an essential role.
Since young people are the future of our world, it is only through them that a real transformation can start to develop. There is no other way but to believe in them, invest in them, teach them human rights at school and the importance of volunteer work, embrace the excluded and socially marginalized groups through music, sports, reading, and writing, and give them adequate conditions to develop so we can break the socially imposed barriers.
Opposed to the faulty meritocratic logic — in which the wealthy are already born with privileges and opportunities not conquered by their own, while the poor have to walk a much more tortuous path — to all the young people must be given fair conditions to grow and study.
As once said by Pythagoras, “Educate the children and it won’t be necessary to punish the men”. From now on, parents must worry not about leaving a better planet to their daughters and sons, but rather leaving better daughters and sons to the planet, for they are the key to a greater future.
Finally, I would like to end with a quote by Paulo Freire, a Brazilian educator and philosopher, in which he says: “By disrespecting the weak, deceiving the unsuspecting, offending life, exploiting others, discriminating against natives, blacks, women, I will not be helping my children to be serious, fair, and loving of life and of others.”. I hope for the time when young people will be truly seen as a transforming agent of the future.