The quest for equal justice has sparked movements and empowered youth across the nation for decades. Reports of racism, discrimination, sexual harassment, disenfranchisement, and LGBTQ hate crimes continue to appear in our workplaces, schools, and neighborhoods. Today, Millennials continue to engage in equal justice policy and are committed to tackling the structural barriers and institutional inequities that prevent the full realization of equal opportunity and rights in the United States.
Youth have long been on the frontlines in of the social justice movement, actively participating in redefining civil liberties, inspiring progressive politics, and mobilizing young people across the country in an effort to end social injustices. The Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network continues that legacy through our 10 Ideas for Equal Justice publication.
For Millennials to shape the future we will inherit, we must effectively voice our needs and priorities and assert ourselves in all conversations involving equal justice. While some policymakers express concern about the future of equality in America, few have effectively addressed the harsh conditions that shape people's lives. Millennials must continue to focus on the policies that exclude some and marginalize others. For example, the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Right Act of 1965 once outlawed discriminatory practices and made great strides in America, but today these laws exclude millions of marginalized Americans through criminal history checks or other determinants.
The failure of our current policies to address the importance of equality highlights the need for Millennials' vision and impact. While equal justice is both one of America's firmly embedded principles and widely disputed topics at all political levels, Millennials remain on the frontline, challenging congressional debates and policies on immigration, LGBTQ rights, criminal justice, and various topics that represent a threat to the advancement of equality in America.
Readers and politicians will hear from Millennials motivated to solve the problems of yesterday and promote the progress of all people in the future. This year's 10 Ideas of Equal Justice represent some of the most innovative ideas being put forward to end discrimination and advance equal justice across the nation. These proposals represent the urgency of restoring progressive values and principles that once aimed to confront unfair practices and standards in America, while focusing on future obstacles and trends.
Marielle DeJong and Katherine Reilly, students from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, are challenging the communication between tribal and federal law enforcement and their practices in investigations in order to address the unprecedented rates of violent crimes and sexual assaults on Native American women. They outline policies necessary to effectively combat the assault on Native America women and restore justice on tribal lands for all victims.
Emily Apple, a student at Hunter College, proposes a plan to bridge the poverty gap for vulnerable communities in New York City by making healthy food accessible to all. She insists that all New York residents should have an agricultural community garden within a one-mile radius of their homes where they can purchase low-cost fresh fruits and vegetables. She writes that all communities have the right to healthy, affordable food, and aims to eliminate disparities and inequities by encouraging large community garden programs to participate and the usage of EBT cards.
Erik Lampmann, a student at the University of Richmond, exposes the tax inequities between same-sex couples and heterosexual couples. Lampmann is interested in encouraging employers to change their LBGTQ priorities to include the absorption of an added tax on transfer of health benefits among domestic partners while advocating for the repeal of the Defense of Marriage act (DOMA). Thus far, 80 businesses have committed to "tax equity" to place pressure on officials to legislate for the repeal of DOMA.
Although these are a just few of the many Millennial voices featured in the publication of 10 Ideas of Equal Justice, Millennial across the country continue to be deeply involved in developing social innovation to end discrimination. Students are addressing structural and institutionalized inequities, social norms, and unjust practices in our society in order to create equal opportunities and uphold basic human rights for all.
May Mgbolu is the Senior Fellow for Equal Justice at the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network and a senior at the University of Arizona.