What teens are like today


BI Graphics_Undividing America_800x100_Post

Undividing America Teens 4Khadija Rahman, a 16-year-old Bengali girl from the Bronx, New York, gave up on social media.Hollis JohnsonThose who make up Generation Z — generally defined as those born after 1995 — are coming of age after the Great Recession and the September 11, 2001 attacks. They do not remember a US president before Barack Obama, or life without the iPhone. Everything has always been one tap away.

At approximately 60 million, Generation Z Americans outnumber millennials by nearly 1 million. Compared with their predecessors, members of Gen Z are true digital natives, with 92% having a digital footprint on social media and the web. But that doesn’t mean they overshare. Teens are more likely to curate their profiles than their parents, who just put everything up.

They’re also highly entrepreneurial (72% of teens say they want to start a business someday) and are working and driving less than past generations. Nearly half of Gen Z is also not white, making it the most ethnically diverse generation in history.

And while many American adults identify as being on either the right or the left on the political spectrum, a 2016 survey of 150,000 teens found that most say they are both: socially liberal and moderate but also moderate to conservative financially.

“They want a balanced budget, but they want universal healthcare — things that other generations have seen as opposing or a choice. They see them as one or want both,” Corey Seemiller, a Wright State University professor who studies Gen Z, told Business Insider.

But, as with any generation, there’s a great amount of diversity within teenage America, too.

Business Insider spoke with teens from across the US with different hometowns, political views, and socioeconomic backgrounds about their lifestyles, hopes, and worries.

Below, check out personal stories from 10 American teens, who are trying to create America’s future right now.


Max Doocy, 17 — A male, Catholic feminist with two moms

Max Doocy, 17 — A male, Catholic feminist with two moms

Courtesy of Max Doocy

In his conservative town of Omaha, Nebraska, Max helps lead a club that started in the ’70s, called Prep Accepts, at his Catholic high school. The club acts as a space where students discuss how to make the school more inclusive. Topics include abortion, racism, and same-sex marriage — the latter of which is personally significant to Max, who has two gay moms, Carol and Laura.

But in 2015, the school threatened to shut the club down after wealthy donors in the area said they would withdraw funding. Max immediately sent a letter to the local archbishop and met with the school president, who reinstated Prep Accepts. This school year, Max said more white, non-LGBT students showed up to meetings.

Tell me about where you live. What do you like most about it?

“There’s a lot of businesspeople and a lot of old money and not as many cornfields as people think. Omaha is known for mansions, because they’re much cheaper here. Coming from California, we bought a 7,000-square-foot house with seven bedrooms for the amount of money a down payment was in Alameda … I like that it has a small-town feel. People are really nice to each other — and let you cut them off in traffic and not freak out.”

Do you feel like you fit in?

“I don’t like how conservative it is. People are usually open-minded, but religion is used as a basis for being judgmental.”

Have you ever faced discrimination? 

“I went to a Catholic elementary school. When it went public that I have two moms, it was a big problem. [The students] were called to the church on campus, and the archbishop of our area talked about how homosexuality and homosexual actions are against God and that as a church community they needed to come together and act against it and not support families who support it, and that was pretty much me … I remember sitting there thinking, ‘What does this mean for my family? How do I deal with it?'” 

Are you a feminist?

“Yep. It’s something that makes a lot of guys uncomfortable, but I would not think twice about answering that as a ‘yes.'”

Do you think the American dream is still alive?

“Yeah, I think so. I think it is what you make of it. If you want to think that it’s not, it won’t be. But if you think it is and work for it, anything is open.”

Kai Morton, 18 — A coder who wants to make social change

Kai Morton, 18 — A coder who wants to make social change

Courtesy of Kai Morton

Kai programmed her first video game when she was 11 years old on a big, purple, clunky laptop. In the game, players jump from platform to platform to collect bugs.

Today, at 18, she knows 15 coding languages and is learning how to develop iOS apps. She is focusing on making apps for social change in San Francisco, including one that connects restaurants that have excess food with food banks. Kai was also the inspiration for Black Girls Code, a national organization founded by her mother that encourages young African-American women to pursue tech careers.

Tell me about where you live. What does your bedroom look like?

“I live in an apartment on the fourth floor. My bedroom has a bed in the middle with lights over it. And then I have a desk with a giant computer with three monitors. Under my desk, I have my old laptop, iPad Pro, an iPad mini, a gigantic drawing tablet, another drawing tablet that’s portable, and a huge pile of books. Next to my bed, I have a bass guitar, an amp, and two Xboxes. And in my closet I have every ‘Goosebumps’ book in existence.”

How much time do you spend online per day?

“A lot. At least 70% of the day I think.”

How do you use social media? What do you try to portray to people online?

“When I first got my Instagram account, it was all about posting what I was doing. But now, it’s about creating your own aesthetic for your page and thinking when and what you want to post and what you want your image to be and how you want people to view you … I want my photos to be good and portray my image and personality well. I see my mom’s generation post a lot more random stuff … I don’t have a finsta [a secret, less curated Instagram account], but all my friends do.”

What are you worried most about for your future?

“Getting into tech, I’m realizing that things are never going to be easy as a black woman. In STEM, and especially in the tech world, it’s harder for women to have a voice, because it’s been dominated by this white, male stereotype for so long … But I’m not taking it as a disadvantage. I’m taking it as an opportunity to be the first and change the image that it’s not just this white, male field. Hopefully a little girl interested in STEM will see me and feel inspired to not give up their dreams.”

What would an ideal world would look like to you, 10 years from now?

“Finding a way to get humanity back into having moral values. Of course, it’s hard to say ‘no discrimination, no racism, and no prejudice,’ because those are hard things. If we’re talking about a utopia, I’d love to see less discrimination and diversity in all fields where anyone can see themselves reflected.”

Joseph Touma, 19 — A conservative who wants to bridge the nation’s political divide

Joseph Touma, 19 — A conservative who wants to bridge the nation's political divide

Courtesy of Joseph Touma

One afternoon at a summer program, Joseph and his friend Clara Nevins were in a heated debate about climate change. Joseph, a West Virginia Republican, wants limited government regulations, while Clara, a California Democrat, values environmental regulation. They realized though, after they listened to each other, that they were able to understand each other’s point of view more clearly.

Clara and Joseph founded an organization, called Bridge the Divide, that aims to make an increasingly polarized America recognize common ground. Its site features message boards where young people can debate political issues, and BTD has 100 student ambassadors in 22 countries.

Tell me about where you live.

“I’ve lived since I can remember in Huntington [West Virginia]. One of most notable, negative things about it is that there’s an opioid epidemic. Some people call it the ‘heroin capital of the world.’ Just the other day, I was downtown, and the police pulled up and there were 50 or 60 needles all over the street. You see more and more of that every day. But we’re also a community of resiliency and bouncing back.”

How did you form your political views?

“My parents are very moderate but more recently have been becoming more conservative. I think they played a big role in me having the beliefs I have today, but they don’t have all the same beliefs I do … For example, I think that legalizing marijuana is not a bad thing. I don’t plan on smoking marijuana, but it would be a great source of income for our state … That’s something my parents don’t agree with me on.”

What do you and your friends disagree on?

“I was talking with someone who was saying, ‘We need to remember, members of ISIS are people too, and they have reasons behind their demands.’ And I didn’t see it the way she’s seeing it, and she didn’t change my perspective, but it was definitely a revelation to me.”

What would an ideal world look like to you, 10 years from now?

“[Right now] while our leaders are at each other’s throats, it’s interesting how [teens] can be so loving to one other and civil. But for some reason, in the grander scheme of things, we are enemies … In an ideal world, there would be an end to violence of any type, whether it’s country-versus-country or individuals on the street.”

Khadija Rahman, 16 — An activist who deleted all of her social-media accounts

Khadija Rahman, 16 — An activist who deleted all of her social-media accounts

Courtesy of Khadija Rahman

After Khadija quit Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram this year, she gained much more time in the day. Now she devotes most of that time to attending protests and putting on plays with anti-racist messages in her community, a majority-Bengali neighborhood in the Bronx.

The first time Khadija ever wore a full hijab was the day after the Syrian city of Aleppo was bombed. She stood in front of her school at an assembly and gave a speech about Syria’s civil war, explaining why she thought students should care.

“It was really scary, because there were more than 400 people there,” she recalled. “I was scared but was like, this is what needs to be heard. I cried when I went back to my seat, but I went home feeling really great that day.”

Undividing kids quotes_khadija

How do you use social media? 

“I’m taking a break from social media. When I saw other pages on Instagram, I would try to copy that, even though it didn’t really feel right. Like with pages with millions of followers, I would think, ‘Oh, if I just copied that, I’ll get millions too.’ But it didn’t sit right with me. I felt fake when I posted things. I would wear a s—ton of makeup and sit in bed to capture the natural light from my window. And then after the pic was done, I would wipe it all away. And then my caption would be: ‘Just went out. Tired AF.’ Something like that, when I just woke up and put on makeup to take a pic. It felt fake. I didn’t want to be fake. I want people to see who I really am.”

What did you try to portray to people online?

“I just posted what my followers wanted to see, like as an Instagram baddie. Instagram baddies are girls who wear a lot of makeup but they look good. Their outfits are fire. They stand in front of cars. And they have millions of followers. I tried to do that, but I looked like a clown! I’ve had a taste of social media, but I want to live in the real world now. After deleting it, I feel like there’s been weight lifted off me. I don’t have to please others. I was scared of getting hate.”

Have you faced discrimination?

“In middle school, I wouldn’t tell people that I was Bengali, but some people caught on I was Muslim. I never wore hijab. When I would say something that offended people, they would say ‘terrorist’ … ‘You don’t know what you’re talking about, terrorist.’ ‘Sit down, terrorist.’ One time, this kid was like, ‘I really like that fire show your dad did. And I was like, ‘It’s not even the Fourth of July. What are you talking about?’ And he was like: ‘Osama Bin Laden. 9/11. Great fireworks show.'”

What is an issue that is important to you?

“I created this club, and I’m so proud of it. Every day, we talk about an important subject in America, like the school-to-prison pipeline and how it affects our school. It’s in the Bronx. We have metal detectors in our school, and that bothers me. It makes me feel like a criminal. When I go in, I’ll clutch my bag, like, ‘Oh, don’t find anything,’ even though I know I don’t have anything. I would run upstairs … The next day, we talked about Syria. I care so much about it, because it’s so close to Bangladesh. Another part that bothers me is that, because they’re Muslims, nobody cares.”

Christian Parker, 18 — A young Trump supporter and comedian

Christian Parker, 18 — A young Trump supporter and comedian

Courtesy of Christian Parker

Earlier this year, Christian — who describes his three main interests as politics, comedy, and rock ‘n’ roll — was one of 100 students chosen for the US Senate Youth Program in Washington, DC. The highlight was meeting President Donald Trump, whom he voted for in November and can do a spot-on impression of.

Trump shook Christian’s hand and gave a short motivational speech. “I bet there’s a future president sitting in this room right now,” he told them. It could be Christian, who plans to enter politics after graduating from college.

Today, with his friends, he plays in a rock band and performs political comedy on a local radio show in Fort Smith, Arkansas.

Tell me about where you live.

“[Fort Smith, Arkansas] is a typical Southern town. It used to be very industrious. We used to have a big Whirlpool plant here, but Whirlpool went down to Mexico. A lot of people lost their jobs, and it took an economic downturn, so there are a lot of abandoned buildings downtown. But we have a rich cultural heritage of being a western town. There’s a famous judge, Judge Parker, who was known as the ‘hanging judge,’ because Fort Smith was the last civilized area before you got into Indian territory, which is now Oklahoma. He was famous for hanging a lot of people … It’s a mixture of metropolitan and a close-knit neighborhood — just big enough to have restaurants but not a whole lot to do.”

Undividing kids quotes_christian

Do you feel like you fit in? What was your high school like?

“Yes, I like the people and am very in tune with the culture, which is very conservative, religious, and focused on family … My high school, when I first started, was called the Southside Rebels … We have a great band. Southside has the reputation of, ‘This is where the rich, white, affluent kids go.’ And Northside was where the low-income kids go. But I think it’s gotten more ethnically diverse. A big controversy happened my sophomore year, after the South Carolina Dylann Roof shooting. To be politically correct, we changed our mascot to the maverick and our fight song, which was ‘Dixie.'”

How do you identify politically? What is an important issue for you?

“I’m a registered Republican, and I believe in small government and individualism. Individualism has become a nasty word. But I feel as though that’s what the country was founded on, the belief that you can strike out and do your own enterprise without the fear of government intervention … An important issue is I see the fear of identity politics coming up more and more — this idea that we’re going to box people in … this social-justice climate, I cannot stand. That’s the most detrimental thing to the Democratic Party. I think identity politics are a form of racism — the idea that because you are ‘this,’ you have to do ‘this.'”

How do you use social media?

“I use Instagram and iFunny a lot to look at funny pictures. I don’t have a finsta, but I a lot of my friends do. A lot of my friends run meme accounts, too, which is pretty impressive in a way. I think finstas are too damaging, because once you put something on the internet, it never comes back … When I first started [on social media], I was in seventh grade and posted whatever I thought about. But now, I’m very much careful about what I post.”

How did you form your political views?

“Very much so from my family and independent research. It seems like my mom falls more in line with Democratic principles, and my dad is a centrist who’s slightly to the right. I’m very much more to the right. Family formed my opinions. I go to church. That’s where I get my religious morals, and I listen to a lot of talk radio.”

What are you worried about for your future?

“This idea of socialism, it scares me. I’m probably in that group of ultra-white affluent people, the country-club crowd that feels threatened by idea that socialism is becoming normalized, which is based on the idea that you can steal from me … I’m worried that we’re going to have a leftward trend in politics among young people and see the rise of universal healthcare … You’re not entitled [to healthcare]. It’s a privilege, because it’s a product, like anything else. You purchase it, like a piece of furniture … If a baby is born with a congenital heart disease, a doctor is going to operate on it. If they can’t afford it, you can do a payment plan or go to your church or your friend.”

Owen Grosserode, 14 — A congenital triple amputee who’s a hiker and a wrestler

Owen Grosserode, 14 — A congenital triple amputee who's a hiker and a wrestler

Courtesy of Owen Grosserode

Owen is a congenital triple amputee, without legs and a left arm, and is entering high school. Since kindergarten, he has been a part of his schools’ wrestling teams, but he isn’t sure whether he will continue next year. The lowest weight class is 105 pounds, and he barely weighs 75.

He lives in Johnson City, Tennessee, in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains with his parents and three older sisters, and enjoys hiking with the help of prosthetics. He thinks that when he grows up he’d like to get married, move to an East Coast suburb in a two-story house, go on beach vacations, and have exactly seven kids.

Tell me about where you live. Do you feel like you fit in?

“My house is two stories, and my neighborhood is filled with trees. It looks beautiful in all seasons, and you can see the mountains … There’s a lot of bluegrass in my town and church. A lot of people are really into banjos and stuff, and I’ve never been able to get into it and fully be a part of it. It’s the number one thing here. But I really like hip-hop, like Tupac and Biggie, you know, the greats of the ’90s. I like the song ‘Juicy’ by Biggie.”

Undividing kids quotes_owen

How do you use social media?

“My main Instagram has 980 followers, but my finsta has 60, because it’s people I know and it’s private. I get very political on there. If I see something, I’ll post it, like memes and screenshots of texts with friends. I try to post a lot, once to three times daily … But I don’t delete photos, unless it’s a selfie that doesn’t get a lot of likes. Like if it gets 70 likes, I’d probably delete that.”

 Are you a feminist?

“I’m a very big feminist. I believe in equal treatment of all the genders. Some people are under the impression that feminism means that women are superior, but that’s not what feminism is at all.”

Have you faced discrimination?

“Yeah, with being an amputee, people just see you as an amputee and limited. And they don’t bother to check how limited. I’ve been to a couple of amusement parks, and they don’t care what I have to say about what I can do. They just see me, and say, ‘No, you can’t ride any of these rides.'”

What are you worried about for your future?

“I’m worried that the two-party system is going to continue for the rest of my life and drive the country apart … I do not like the new healthcare bill. I have a preexisting condition. I’m an amputee. I can get covered under the Affordable Healthcare Act … I grow a lot, because I’m a kid, so I have to get new prosthetics legs every year. And I sometimes fall, so they break. Insurance helps with that. I also have a lot of friends from camp who are amputees, so I’m not just concerned about me — I’m concerned about them getting prosthetics.”

Jesse Kay, 16 — An entrepreneur who made thousands in middle school

Jesse Kay, 16 — An entrepreneur who made thousands in middle school

Courtesy of Jesse Kay

At 8 years old, Jesse started his first one-man business. With the help of 10 computers and his entire family clicking “check out,” he bought a $180 exclusive pair of Air Jordan 5s that sold out in seconds from Foot Locker. Two hours later, he put the shoes on eBay — but for $400 — and spent that $220 profit on a pair of Air Jordan 11s (ones he actually wanted). Over the next five years, he made over $3,000 flipping sneakers, buying and reselling on the weekends when he wasn’t in school in Upper Saddle River, New Jersey.

Today, at 16, he produces the “20 under 20s” podcast, in which he interviews (mostly young) business owners. (He recently asked Mark Cuban and Jeff Bezos to come on, though they politely declined via email.) Jesse said he never wants to work for a boss. He wants to be his own.

Do you know what you want to be when you grow up?

“I want to be an entrepreneur and be able to impact people in my community and the world, whether that’s creating an app that people use on a day-to-day basis or a product that makes people’s lives better. I think being your own boss is high-risk, high-reward, and it’s great because success is all on you. Like, if you’re in a normal job, no matter how well you’re doing, the company has complete control over you.”

How do you identify politically?

“I would definitely say I’m not a Democrat or Republican. That’s way too specific, and I’m not too extreme to one. I think there are specific issues, and I don’t think you should be one. But libertarian is something I identify closest with — small-ish government … but I’m all for welfare and helping people in need.”

What issues do you and your friends agree and disagree on?

“We disagree on the economic side a lot, like with the taxation of businesses. But we agree on social issues, like gay marriage … I also think a lot of other people [in Generation Z] are fiscally conservative but socially liberal now.”

Do you think the American dream is still alive?

“One hundred percent — just from the experience of talking to people who have emigrated to America, raised their family here, and become successful. I think it’s 100% alive and well.”

What would your American dream look like?

“I think it would be raising a family in a nice area, being able to create change, and living my life without restriction, like being able to support my family and not have stuff holding me down.”

Milo Stewart, 19 — A nonbinary, trans YouTuber whom Milo Yiannopoulos once harassed on Twitter

Milo Stewart, 19 — A nonbinary, trans YouTuber whom Milo Yiannopoulos once harassed on Twitter

Courtesy of Milo Stewart

Like many teens, Milo, a nonbinary transgender person from Houston who uses the pronoun “they,” grew up on the internet, using Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter since the tween years.

Milo first posted a YouTube video at 15 and today, at 19, has more than 26,000 subscribers. They mainly vlog about topics related to queerness and gender and, with a friend, Joe, recently posted a video discussing online dating as a trans or nonbinary person. Last year, Milo moved from Texas to Chicago for college.

What do you do in your spare time, and how do you hang out with your friends?

“I just got my first tattoo. It’s a quote from Mary Oliver’s poem ‘Self Portrait‘ that says ‘in love with life and still full of beans.’ So I’ve been practicing trying to be in love with life. And what that has looked like is a lot of getting up at 5 a.m. to watch the sunrise. And there was recently a trans beach party in Chicago that I went to with a bunch of friends, but we got rained out. I stayed on the beach while it was raining, and then I spontaneously got a tattoo. That’s what my summer has looked like so far: reading poetry, enjoying nature, and being in love with life.”

What’s the biggest thing that adults get wrong about teens?

“Everything. One thing I run into is the idea that teens don’t know who they are, and I think a lot of teens have their identities and interests brushed off.”

How do you use social media?

“I use Twitter the most. I’m pretty addicted to Tinder, even though I’m in a monogamous relationship. I don’t talk to a lot of people [on Tinder], but I constantly change my profile, because I like using Tinder to figure out how I want others to perceive me. I don’t know if it’s healthy, but it’s a good way to sculpt how others perceive me.”

What do you try to portray to people online?

“I don’t think it’s a good way to grow up — to try and curate a profile about yourself. I wish I had found social media later, or at least waited until I was 16 until I tried to get followers. I have several different brands online. It’s exhausting to analyze how people see me on these platforms. And it’s weird to think the way I present myself is different than I actually am. But I don’t know how to interact in life if I don’t curate myself. I don’t think I can encompass myself fully on social media, just out of the necessity to keep some aspects of my life private … Plus, I don’t even know if I have a true self. I don’t know if there is a space where I feel OK with not holding anything back about myself, except maybe when I’m alone.” 

Have you experienced discrimination?

“My senior year of high school, this was the first time online harassment came offline. It started when Milo Yiannopoulos tweeted a link to my YouTube channel and said, ‘Change everything about yourself, or you’re going to die miserable and alone with only the stench of cactus as company.’ But I just brushed it off, because I was used to old white men in their 30s saying things about me online. Until I realized a majority of people on my speech debate team looked up to Milo Yiannopoulos. They were liking and retweeting this tweet, and I confronted them about it, which brought more harassment from Milo Yiannopoulos and a lot of ostracization on my debate team. I was at national qualifiers, and we would leave our backpacks in the lunchroom, and someone had taped a sign on it that said, ‘I’m very special,’ which I took as mocking, like they didn’t see my nonbinary identity as valid.”

Diego Salanetti, 13 — A farmer who has never used social media

Diego Salanetti, 13 — A farmer who has never used social media

Courtesy of Diego Salanetti

Diego grew up on a vegetable farm, where he helps his parents transplant, harvest, and deliver crops, in rural Tyringham, Massachusetts. The 5-acre farm grows staple crops, like tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, and beans, as well as trendy produce, like kale and cauliflower, for a community farm share.

Since the farm is located deep in the woods and doesn’t have internet access, he’s never had a cellphone or any social-media accounts. Sometimes, his landline phone doesn’t even work. Diego says he enjoys the silence, especially since it allows him to avoid the daily news cycle.

Tell me about where you live.

“It’s a very small town. Year-round residence is like 360. There are a lot of hills, one school … The farm is open fields. The town has a center, where there’s a post office and town hall. Our house is near the woods, which is protected land, at the lower end of our property. On our road that’s a mile long, we have four houses that are really spread out … And we just started raising 10 chickens.”

Do you feel like you fit in?

“Yeah, I’ve gone to school with the same people every year …  And there’s such a large community around food. We started the CSA [a farm share that stands for Community Supported Agriculture] with 10 families, and it’s 75 now. They come once a week and pick up a share of food. It’s really nice, because people come and hang out and build friendships.”

Do you know what you want to be when you grow up?

“I don’t, but I think being a farmer would be interesting … Right now, I’m working with mushrooms. I recently got more sterilized sawdust blocks. I take sterilized sawdust and spawn, mix it together, and let them colonize. And then I harvest them and sell them to friends and a restaurant. My mom helped me come up with the name [of my business]: Myco Rising, because myco is the study of mushrooms, and rising came into place, because I personally felt the need to help people learn more about this — the interconnectedness of everything and life, really.”

How do you talk to your friends when you’re not together?

“I call them every now and then to arrange a get-together. Or I email them. I’m not online very much, but all my friends have smartphones and social media … I enjoy not being connected to that world, because it seems like it can be overwhelming … For the news, I listen to the radio. If it’s something urgent, I’ll hear it from my parents. Like, I heard about the transgender military ban six days after it happened.”

What is an issue that is important to you?

“Climate change is a fact that some people do not want to acknowledge, but [my family] sees it more being connected to food. The weather used to be more reliable, like raining every now and then. But this year, we had a drought for most of the summer. We noticed that quite a bit, because we were constantly dragging hoses around our plants so they didn’t all die.”

Sharon Lin, 18 — A poet, data scientist, and daughter of immigrants

Sharon Lin, 18 — A poet, data scientist, and daughter of immigrants

Courtesy of Sharon Lin

Sharon is a poet, software engineer, data scientist, and daughter of Chinese immigrants from Queens, New York. She’s this year’s New York City Youth Poet Laureate, and she’s going to MIT in the fall to study computer science.

One of her most recent poems is about white actors, like Tilda Swinton in “Doctor Strange” and Scarlett Johansson in “Ghost in the Shell,” who play Asian characters. She’s also built robots, video games, and apps.

Tell me about where you grew up.

“I grew up in New Jersey, which was much quieter than New York. There was also a lot less diversity. I had a lot of friends who were Christian, and most of the town was white. I knew very few people of color, and it was a very conservative place to grow up. There was pressure from other families to conform, so I ended up not really being able to develop my own opinions and get as politically involved as I was able to do after I moved to New York.”

How do you identify politically?

“I’m liberal, but I’m more moderate than most liberals. I try to be open-minded and listen to a lot of opinions, and see where they get their logic from … I try to think about whatever issue I’m supporting in terms of the facts we currently have about that issue and see whether the facts make sense in terms of my views. There’s a trend toward data-based politics, and that’s an accurate way to describe my views. For example, when we’re talking about economic policy, I’ll look into the research to see if any fallacies are not being supported and let that determine which policy I think is best, based on the mathematics of that policy.”

What do you and your parents disagree on?

“My parents identify as moderate, but they are traditional on some things. They’re not sex-positive. They have different ideas about what women should be doing. Sometimes, I’ll talk about my future, and my mom will bring up that she wants me to have children and get married early … My dad also doesn’t agree with my support for women’s rights and thinks it’s a distraction in the workplace.”

Undividing kids quotes_sharon

What do you and your friends disagree on?

“Some topics are more controversial, like the death penalty. And I have some friends who support abortion, or ones who might be socially liberal but have other conservative views too. Or with the Israel-Palestinian conflict, there tend to be differences depending on their backgrounds and religions.”

Have you faced discrimination?

“Our family traditionally eats Chinese food, especially around Chinese New Year. Sometimes, my mom would pack leftovers for lunch, and I would go to [elementary] school, and all the other kids would make fun of me for having something weird in my lunch. That was something early on that separated me from other students whose families had lived here for generations.”

Do you think the American dream is still alive?

“I don’t know if I ever believed in the American dream to begin with, just because, being a first-gen, I got secondhand experience on how difficult it is. I don’t know if the American dream has ever really existed — this idea of going from rags to riches or coming to America and being able to make anything of yourself. I think a lot of that comes from the [economic] background you have before you come to America. From a philosophical aspect, it’s still real — the idea that, as a country, we have the resources. But logistically, it’s difficult to say it’s ever been real. When you think about all the immigrants that come to the US, they don’t have the economic support to send their kids to college or make a living wage. It’s something I’m confused about whether I support. I think it’s an ideal that people have allowed themselves to believe.”

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