Social justice and established institutions

How a generation of students is losing faith in established institutions

Madeline Bruce, Features Editor

I’m taking a U.S. Government and Politics Class this semester, and in my class a few weeks ago, the professor told us that young people are losing faith in established institutions.
This statement had the connotation that this loss of trust is a bad thing. After all, aren’t the institutions that frame our society, like churches, schools and government organizations, there to protect and serve us?
Yes, to a point. However, there comes a point in time when those institutions no longer protect and serve the people.
Rather, they harm the people more than they do the previously mentioned two things. I believe that this is happening right before our eyes.
Because of this, it is valid that young people are losing faith in these established institutions.
In my class, we did not talk about how or why this is happening. I started to wonder, why are we losing faith in established institutions like government, churches and schools? The majority of young people still participate in some of these institutions. So, why are they losing faith?
I think it all comes back to social justice. There are so many issues that these institutions aren’t addressing or doing anything about. In fact, they are working against them.
For example, racism is a systemic, institutionalized issue. It is embedded in our institutions — in our schools, government and even churches. The fact that it is institutionalized is why innocent Black people are killed. It is why African American English is correlated with a lack of education or intelligence.
It is such a deep, systemic issue because our established institutions allow it to be.
In particular, our government, especially in the past four years, has ignored social justice issues, making strides against them through legislation.
For example, President Trump just signed an executive order that could ban diversity training on college campuses. How can we have faith in an institution that actively works against our identities and causes that impact the livelihood of people?
I don’t think that our loss of faith is our own fault. It is a result of these institutions not working in favor of the people. Young people are becoming increasingly aware of this, and we are not only losing faith in these institutions, we are fighting back in the name of social justice causes.
In the past few years, there has been an increase in youth activism, youth-led protests and youth-led movements.
This is a direct result of our loss of trust in established institutions, but in government, especially.
So, is this a good thing? I think so. It is clear that our established institutions are not working in our favor, as they are supposed to be doing. Many social justice issues are becoming exacerbated by the actions of government working in favor of the few, rather than the many.
This loss of faith will ultimately lead to a reconstruction of our institutions, so that they work to prevent social justice issues from becoming just that, issues.
I do think we need established institutions, as they are the framework of a successful society. However, they become unnecessary and harmful when they start to hurt the people they are supposed to be protecting.
That is when it is time for change. Clearly, that time is now, and young people will ensure that change comes.

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