To Speak Out or Stay Quiet - Gen Z’s Power to Mobilize 

The sayings “they’re stuck in their ways,” and “they grew up in a different time” are common phrases heard on Sunday nights around my dining room table. Dinners full of passing bread and advice down to my siblings, cousins, and I often have tidbits of biased commentary. Sayings to excuse family members comments are typically applied to the older generations who sit at the end of the table in order to justify misaligned, biased, or just outright prejudiced comments; some of these statements being “stupid woman driver” or “they take a knee so do I” regarding the NFL players who took a knee to take a stand. Many Millenials and Gen- Z’ers, myself included, struggle to balance the lovable qualities of their family members with their politically incorrect opinions. It is even more difficult knowing when to stand up to extended family members and when to stay quiet. 

Gen Z's wide participation in social justice movements may explain why many of them are avid about speaking out against politically incorrect opinions. The wide range 0f marches and petitions led by young people reveal the trend of social justice being prioritized by younger generations. From teenagers leading Black Lives Matter marches to 18-year-old Greta Thunberg mobilizing a climate strike, Gen Z’s motivation to inspire change seems to have no bounds. 

Just as generational gaps regarding slang and technology exist, older and younger people act differently after hearing a family members' politically incorrect comments. While “respect your elders” is a core value among both old and young people, nine of the ten BC class of 2024 students interviewed stated that they routinely call out prejudiced comments made by their older relatives more than both their parents. While young people tend to stand up against insensitive remarks, their parents are more likely to passively reject comments regarding social issues by not stating their opinion after hearing a statement that they disagree with. 

Lily Steele, LSOEHD ‘24, notices the generational difference of actively and passively rejecting comments within her home. Steele discusses how “the norm is evolving (as) it is less expected to be deferential and polite.” Both Lily and Will Davis, CSOM ‘24 also note the pattern of Gen-Z’ers mobilizing to stand up to injustice. Specifically, Will discusses the #NeverAgain movement, which consists of the group of students from Marjorie Stoneham Douglas High School who demand action against gun violence. Davis attributes the reasoning for these generational differences to “young people being able to stand up for marginalized groups in ways that previous generations couldn't, as it was not socially acceptable in the past.” As a cohort, Davis and Steele believe Gen-Z is more concerned with achieving justice than being polite. This helps explain why this generation more so than others actively rejects rather than quietly disagreeing. 

Gen-Z's willingness to take action does not mean that other generations have not stood up for social justice issues. For one, the actions of the now 70-year-olds protesting the Vietnam War shows the constant pattern of student activism for social change throughout time. Gen- Z'ers may attribute their noticeable likelihood to speak out in the face of injustice to their widespread usage of the media. Because Gen-Z is one of the first cohorts to utilize the media to develop and publish their opinions, this may make it appear that the younger generations speak up against injustice more. Older generations did not grow up with the opportunity to share their opinions with the click of a button. 

Boston College's liberal arts community creates an environment where students can express and discuss social justice issues. From personal experience, these discussions are most difficult at the dinner table with my family members. However, because of Gen-Zers willingness to stand up for what they believe in, I am confident that these teachings will be passed down to younger generations to ignite a sense of social change. 

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