Why Zendaya's Speech At The Teen Choice Awards Is So Important Right Now

Photo: Steve Granitz/WireImage.
During Sunday night’s Teen Choice Awards Zendaya won a surfboard — a very weird choice of trophies — for being the show’s 2017 Choice Summer Movie Actress. She took home the award for her role in Spider-Man: Homecoming, and she gave a moving acceptance speech. Speaking specifically to young people, Zendaya said that with “all of the injustice and the hatred that is happening not only in the world, but our country" she wants them to be “educated” and “pay attention” to what’s happening around them. The 20-year-old insisted that it’s okay for young people to use their voice when, they “see something bad happen." And she ended with "You are the future leaders of the world. You are the future presidents, the future senators. You guys are the ones that are going to make this world better. You are the future. So take that very, very seriously all right?" In light of the events that happened in Charlottesville, Virginia, just a day earlier, her request was right on time.
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I was in the nail shop on Saturday morning, recommitting to a summery yellow polish for good vibes when I saw the mayhem in Charlottesville. White supremacists had taken to the streets, some of them decked out in full militia gear, complete with assault rifles. Swastikas were proudly on display alongside confederate flags. They were beating and pepper spraying counter-protesters — on CNN I saw a man throw a punch at a woman. Even with the television muted, I was jolted by what I was seeing. If there hadn’t have been so many cell phones out to capture the events, it could have very well been historical footage from the ‘50s.
The illusion that America has moved past racism should have been shattered by now. But the false hope that, at the very least, the people keeping separatist ideology alive will be dying off soon due to old age should also be done away with. Case in point: According to The New York Times, James Alex Fields Jr., the driver who killed Heather Heyer and injured nearly 20 other people after attending the rally in Virginia, is only 32 years old. He’s a millennial. The saying that "hate breeds hate" should be taken both figuratively and literally.
There were a number of young people among the ranks of the white nationalists in Virginia. And it is important to know that this rally was a nationally organized effort spearheaded by Jason Kessler. Fields traveled all the way from Ohio. White supremacists are being mobilized and recruited using the same mediums that progressives are utilizing to resist them. Each time a news platform gives someone like David Duke — the former leader of the KKK, who was also present in Charlottesville — a platform to share his values, they are contributing to these efforts.
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This brings me back to Zendaya’s comments. The alt-right is bringing in new members at both the organizational and ideological level, and they are reaching young people. If generation Z thinks that this is not an issue that they will have to continue to advocate for for years to come, they are mistaken. Without naming the exact issues, Zendaya put out a strong call to action, reminding young people of their role in this fight. And make no mistake about it, eradicating white supremacy, racism, and intolerance is definitely worth fighting for.
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