The student news website of Omaha Central High School

Slacktivism

February 2, 2017

­In my honest opinion, this year has been a train wreck for America. 2016 has seen some pretty nasty racial tension, mass shootings, political weakness and so much more. American society (as well as its culture) is evolving quickly, and I personally believe this is why so much negativity is happening at once. We’re trying to advance socially, but we’re going about it very wrong. This nation is dividing; people are becoming politically charged based on their beliefs. Individuals are flocking together with like-minded people, and inevitably shun those that disagree with their views, intentionally or unintentionally.

In the wake of this year’s tumultuous presidential election, America has become the political battleground for these rivaling groups. We saw a relatively unexpected turnout after the polls closed, and people responded in a variety of ways. Some were happy, some were sad, some were angry, some were a strange mix of everything. One of the most widespread reactions from dissatisfied citizens was (unsurprisingly) protesting. People immediately assembled in public areas, wielding signs and megaphones. Some groups managed to stay peaceful, but many large cities experienced some form of a violence outbreak for the few days following.

Omaha has been pretty lucky, we’ve seen a lot of peaceful activity in regards to protests. Earlier this year, the nation saw a surge of police-on-black killings, and even a few black-on-police cases. Racial tension hit an astounding peak, and protests quickly turned to violent in most situations. However, Omaha managed to keep its cool, and communities organized peaceful rallies and demonstrations in effort to combat the surrounding negativity.

This is the kind of approach that gets the ball rolling for change, but it obviously doesn’t resolve the issue at hand. Whatever that issue may be, it will inevitably require a diplomatic solution. Now obviously, that takes time. But protesters need to realize that they will eventually have to work for said solution, and that gathering with people that think the same way will only get them so far.

To the near 100 million eligible adults that didn’t vote this year, why are so many of you unhappy with the results? Why are so many of you taking to the streets and protesting when you had all the power necessary to tip the scales in your favor? Your vote is your contribution to this country’s future, so make it. This is what my advisor and I angrily refer to as “slacktivism”. Activism for the weak-willed people who simply yell to be loud, hold signs to be noticed and complain about things they’re barely educated on.

“Slacktivism” also applies to the adults who are fully capable of running for organizing political committees or starting petitions, yet stick to taking selfies at rallies. College students suddenly become political geniuses overnight, as shown in their incessant feed of protest videos and pictures. The way I see it: if people are going to attend protests and rallies, why not get something out of it? Why not use the experience to go forward and further educate themselves, and work to a point where they can actually change things within their government? You can’t do that while holding a sign in one hand and a phone in the other. That, my friend, is the difference between activism and “slacktivism”.

With this being said, I understand that protests and rallies work a little differently for high school students. Central had a nationally recognized rally just recently, and I’m pretty proud of all the people who utilized the gathering to have intelligent discussion and voice their opinions. I’m also damn grateful for such an accommodating school staff, who allowed the student body to exercise their rights of free speech and assembly, as opposed to shutting the situation down completely. They knew that Central’s students needed to speak their minds, and went extra lengths to make sure they were safe while doing so. As a journalist, I couldn’t be happier. From me to the top of the chain, thank you.

Even though a vast majority of Central’s students aren’t old enough to vote, a good percentage took full advantage of the rally by making it worth the time it took. Yes, some students simply went to get out of class, which is unavoidable. I get that most of them can’t fill in a bubble on a ballot yet, but they could still be doing more than just posting a Snapchat story and pretending to be an avid social justice warrior. The people who chose to do that over being productive within the rally are the reason “slacktivism” is a thing. You know who you are.

For all the Central students who went to the event and gained something, good job. Remember the debates you had, the friends you made and the knowledge you obtained from them. Just remember, your protesting and rallying is productive until you turn 18. After that, the power is in your hands to change the way America operates. Run for office, form a committee, hell, just vote. Back up the ideas you stand for by fighting for them where it matters. Be a true activist, not a “slacktivist”.

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