By: Jonathan Rivera
Disclaimer… read with an open mind. Put aside any pre-conceived notions. And read till the end. I think you’ll be glad you did. With that being said…
I’ll never forget my first protest. In life it’s easy to talk about and judge things you’ve never experienced. I’m a 28 year old, light-skinned puerto-rican in Orlando, Florida. I had heard about protests in my history books, I watched people talk about it on the news, but I had never personally been a part of one. I never had felt the need to, and had never had one close enough to me to participate in. But this time felt different.
Ahmaud Arbery. George Floyd. Breyonna Taylor. Something wasn’t right. This wasn’t political, this wasn’t propaganda, there was a pattern. I knew it not only because I could see it for myself, but because I’ve been blessed with incredible black and brown friends who were expressing what they were feeling. But the people who truly drove my passion and curiosity… were the young.
You couldn’t scroll through social media without seeing post after post by teenagers expressing their pain, frustration, and passion for change and justice. We can blame it on hype, people following the crowd, or feeling social pressure. But I would say that was the minority, not the majority. Something was happening… It was overwhelming and moving at the same time. In my city there were protests being scheduled and I felt the need to go. To see it for myself. So I did.
Let me tell you what I saw: oceans of young people. Peaceful, but passionate. It was beautiful. Every color, culture, and crowd. The diversity was striking. This was the first time I firsthand saw something I had read and talked so much about: THIS WAS GEN-Z.
Studies say that Gen-Z is the most ethnically diverse generation in American History.
49% of the Gen-Z population is considered non-white.
Let me tell you why this is important. Because regardless of your political preferences or ideologies. Regardless of your statistics or perspectives. Regardless of how you feel about certain organizations. When it comes to racial diversity and justice, for Gen-Z: THIS IS PERSONAL. Studies show that three in four Gen-Zer’s are friends with people from different backgrounds, races, and beliefs. When we talk about these issues, you’re not just talking about a group of people, these are their friends and family members.
I’m not telling you what to believe, and this is not a blog about how to reach racial reconciliation or biblical justice. My point is simple. This should matter to you, because it matters to your students. This will be a hard week for many students with the results of the Breyonna Taylor case. You don’t have to agree to empathize. But I do have a hunch that if we don’t listen, we may lose them. These issues matter to students, and I think they matter to God. Maybe just maybe… if we’re going to reach a generation, they should matter to us.
Meet the author:
Jonathan Rivera is a Pastor & Communicator in Orlando, Florida. He’s one of the associate pastors at Calvario City Church, and also the Director of the Florida Multicultural Leadership College. Jonathan is passionate about reaching young people with the message of the Gospel, and seeing generations engage in God’s global mission. If you meet him, he’ll probably talk to you about the NBA, going to Disney, or how in heaven everyone will speak in Spanish.