Combatting Epistemic Violence against Young Activists
Introduction: Young people are advocating for social and political change. In response to the worsening climate crisis, young people have organized several movements, including the Sunrise Movement and the School Strike for Climate movement. Following the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, students led a nationwide movement for gun control. Young people led the charge for justice following the death of Trayvon Martin and have played significant roles in the Black Lives Matter movement. Members of the climate, gun control, and anti-racism movements are well-educated on their respective issues and have articulated clear political and economic aims.1 Young people have rallied around concerns for their shared futures, using knowledge of climate science, gun dangers, and white supremacy and their correspondingly rational interests in a safe and ecologically healthy world, to create sound platforms for reform. Even though their positions are sound, many adults believe they could not possibly understand the scope of the issues or have the tools to respond to the crises. Their beliefs are often dismissed as childish because adults assume that children are too naïve to understand the full extent of issues like the climate crisis and what it would take to address them. The result is that their position as young persons who must endure the effects of current policies and practices is discounted and they are subject to epistemic injustice, a concept introduced by Miranda Fricker, and epistemic oppression, a concept introduced by Kristie Dotson.