Society Through the Lens of a Teenager
Pamela Rodriguez | On 22, Jan 2019
Sitting on the floor of her quaint two bedroom apartment in the heart of Jersey City Heights, I discussed with 17-year-old Kalima Masum what it means to be a young black woman living in today’s society. She was hesitant to divulge into the topic, expressing fear of coming across as unintelligent. “I don’t want to sound dumb,” she said with a nervous laugh. But in the next few minutes of our conversation proved that her fears were unfounded.
“Sometimes I have to work harder for the things I want because number one, I’m a woman, and number two, I’m a minority,” she said matter-of-factly. She blames this on the stereotype that comes along with being a minority. They’re often labeled as the bottom-feeders of society and aren’t given equal opportunities.
Masum says that these unjust assumptions have only increased since President Trump’s presidency began. “There is a lot of hate. Especially because my parents are both immigrants,” she said. This relates to President Trump’s vocal anti-immigrant message that has rocked the nation, making people question Americans’ thoughts on immigrants to begin with.
“In Jersey City there is discrimination, but we live in a very diverse community so we don’t see it as often, but on social media, we see a lot of it.” She adds how social media is a way of showing different areas of the country where there aren’t communities that are as tolerable as Jersey City.
There is no denying that social media is an innovative tool for shining light to instances of injustice, but the internet also comes with its downfalls.
“Social media is so big but so small at the same time. You only see certain things and it’s hard to know what to believe.”
This is relative to the buzz word taking over the media, known as “fake news.” News stations and newspaper companies that were once admired have recently been ripped to shreds by this overused term. It seems that every news story or source is questioned and doubted all due to a single phrase.
However, Masum says that discrimination can also come from her own racial community.
“Even blacks discriminate blacks. I get treated poorly by other black people at work just because my skin tone is lighter than theirs.”
She goes on to explain how this extends to black-on-black violence and the responsibility each community has to lift each other up.
“There’s already enough people bringing us down. We shouldn’t do it to each other.”
Masum says that whether things will get better or worse regarding discrimination and the treatment of minorities is somewhat dependent on who our next president will be, but not entirely. “Their [the next president’s] views and beliefs will affect people, but there’s always going to be discrimination.”
However, she’s hopeful that her generation, Generation Z, which makes up 25% of the US population, will make positive changes in the future.
“I think we are more open-minded and we respect each other more, but that also comes from the way you were raised. I think social media takes a big part [in making Generation Z different from the rest] because we wouldn’t know half of the things going on in our country if it weren’t for Twitter or Instagram.”
This tracks with a 2017 survey from the Pew Research Center which stated that 67% of Americans reported getting their news from Twitter.
As for Masum, she says that as effective social media can be, it’s also a place where people have to improve.
“Social media isn’t everything and can leave out a lot of information. People are so quick to believe what they see or read without looking at the facts or doing research.”
From speaking with Masum, I saw a glimpse into what many people from her demographic view the state of our society today. With focus points such as discrimination against minorities, the effects of President Trump’s policies, and social media, it’s clear that she, and people like her, are in tune with what’s affecting our country the most.
Many people talk about what we need to move our society forward, but the truth is this: we already have it.
It is voices like Masum’s that show the capability young people have to recognize the problems that are prevalent to current times and decipher which ways are best in order to solve them. They are social media savvy. but realize that it’s not the most important thing in the world.
Next time you’re looking to have an intellectual conversation, don’t look farther than your closest teenager.