What the Egyptian Uprising Means To Young African-Americans

February 3, 2011  |  

So, here we are in the middle of history-making events.  The Egyptian uprising is like nothing we’ve probably seen, if you’re 18-34,  in our lifetime thus far.  Social change has undeniably come to that country.  And while a revolution is taking place half-way around the world, I can’t help thinking that the force behind the demonstrations should be examined because it is very relevant to today’s young African-Americans for a variety of reasons.

Aside from the fact that the new balance of power could force your gas prices to surge this summer, the emotions and methods involved in this situation are very compelling.  Here we have the very youth of a country who seem to have become so disenfranchised and so discouraged about lack of employment and lack of political respect that they have pushed back, encouraging other generations to join them in the struggle.  This action seems to have been started and maintained in part from the availability of social networks and heavy mobile phone usage. And even when disconnected from the digital grid, this group of people have become so committed to obtaining a better life that nothing else seems to matter, and they continue on in the struggle.  But while more and more information is revealed about the turmoil, one can’t help but note a couple of moderate comparisons between the plights of young Egyptians and young African-Americans today.

Obviously, Egyptian youth are not the only ones facing challenges in obtaining employment.  All too often the fact that African-American unemployment is double that of the rest of the country is overlooked in the media.  In fact, the Children’s Defense Fund recently declared a type of emergency regarding young Blacks in this country.

Further, when looking at digital usage, all research shows that African-Americans actually frequent social media more than the mainstream and text more often via mobile phones than the mainstream.  We rule this communication realm, similar to that of Egyptian youth as well.

Yet when it comes to political passion, this is where the the similarities seem to end. Though clearly I am not suggesting anything remotely near that of rampant street protests, I am wondering what happened to even our zest for civic engagement.  For instance, in this past November election I read that only about 4 million Black people voted out of 40 million+ Black Americans.  And this is particularly troubling given that the U.S. Census Bureau foretells that Blacks and Latinos will actually out-number Caucasians by 2040 and already do so in several major American cities today.

We are in the midst of a monumental change in which too few of us are participating intelligently given that the numbers are starting to tip in our favor.  Well-known political theorist Benjamin Barber has said,  “The planet’s most multicultural nation is today deeply fearful of the very openness and tolerance that render it so pervasively multicultural.” It is this fear that has, in part, created polarizing bi-partisanship and harsh words. Obviously, the stakes are high as our country undergoes unprecedented changes in ethnic make up, economic standards and technological advances; and that calls for us to be present and vigilant.

So I wonder, as I watch the coverage the events unfolding in Tahrir Square and know that the unofficial start of the 2012 campaign is already beginning, how will the multicultural portion of Gen Y in our country begin to participate more in civic scenarios in this country and use digital media to help make this voice heard in an organized fashion more consistently.

Why do or don’t you engage with politics on the regular?  I’m curious.

Lauren DeLisa Coleman is a writer, host and thought-leader specializing in the diverse segment of the Gen Y demo, tech and its convergence with socio-economic concerns. She is also the CEO and founder of Punch Media Group, an edgy digital media and entertainment company which develops pop culture experience and branding strategy across digital platforms. Follow her @mediaempress

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