Corin, then 17, survived the Marjory Stoneman Douglas School Shooting in Parkland, Florida, in 2018. Seeing her school’s name alongside other locations of tragic mass shootings — Columbine High School, Sandy Hook Elementary School, and the movie theater in Aurora, Colorado — would define the rest of her life.
“We were the generation that grew up post-9/11 in a country filled with violence,” said Corin, who is one of the founding members of March For Our Lives, a student-run gun violence prevention organization founded in the wake of the Parkland shooting.
Born between the years of 1996 and 2010, GenZers have grown up in an era where gun violence is frequent, immigration is a hotly debated topic and the deteriorating climate is acknowledged as a crisis. They are now coming of age during a global pandemic that is disproportionately affecting black and brown communities, and as protesters take to the streets to call out racism and police brutality.
One in 10 eligible voters this November will be a member of GenZ.
Certain members of GenZ, including Corin, are adamant that the time for revolution — in the streets, online and at the polls — is now. They believe that they are uniquely positioned to affect change because of social media and the way it unites the generation.
By the numbers
GenZ is the most racially and ethnically diverse generation yet. According to Pew Research, only a slight majority (52%) of post-millennials are non-Hispanic white, compared to a larger majority (61%) for millennials 10 years earlier.
Some experts suggested that GenZ is particularly accepting because of the way that diversity has been normalized within their generation since birth.
“This generation has grown up in a world that is considerably different than GenX, even Millennials. They’ve had friends, families, relationships with people who have been different than you based on whatever the difference is: socioeconomic, gender identity, and therefore, they’ve noticed that those friends and family members, even acquaintances are really no different than you as a generation. That is part of the reason they’ve been filled with so much empathy,” John Della Volpe, director of polling at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics, told CNN.
And while GenZers have grown up in an increasingly more diverse environment, they have also come of age amid political division and violence.
In November 2016, right around the time that the oldest members of GenZ were starting college, America was more politically divided than during years prior, according to Pew Research. Pew Research found that both party coalitions have been reshaped by an aging US population, levels of higher education, and racial and ethnic diversity. On the eve of the 2016 election, the parties were moving further and further apart. The Democratic voter base was becoming younger and diverse quickly, while the GOP voter base was aging, but diversifying more slowly.
In 2019, there were more mass shootings than days in the year, according to the Gun Violence Archive, an online database that has tracked American gun violence since 2014. And, while this generation is the most diverse, in 2019, the likelihood of encountering gun violence differs by race. According to Giffords Law Center, the legal and policy oriented wing of Giffords, an organization dedicated to research around gun violence prevention, in 2019, unarmed Black civilians were about five times more likely to be shot and killed than unarmed white civilians.
Some researchers suggest that gun violence has been considered an everyday element of life in black and brown communities, and so it has been ignored for years, often seen as an issue separate from mass shootings. But, as GenZ gun violence prevention activists point out, when they address gun violence in 2020, they are referring to both rare mass shootings, as well as prevalent gun violence in communities of color.
‘GenZ was woken up earlier’