How Gen Z Students Transformed Monumental Times | Notice
EDITOR’S NOTE: This essay is part of a Mayborn School of Journalism editorial project in which students were asked to revisit the pandemic and describe what it looked like from their perspective. These student-written perspectives will be published until Friday.
I believe that life is made of little moments that are linked together to create a bigger one. It’s no secret that the pandemic has affected everyone’s lives in ways big and small. While people may rejoice in not wearing real pants during meetings, others mourn the loss of the moments they were meant to have. Weddings, holiday parties and graduation ceremonies are just another thing lost for COVID-19. As an aspiring public relations professional and senior scholar at the University of North Texas, I missed a lot of small moments, but I also got a chance to be a part of bigger moments.
Throughout this pandemic, Weekly RP reported that Generation Z’s mental health is declining. Twenty-six percent of those surveyed had increased depression and anxiety. With the decline in mental health this generation faces, Asian Americans of Generation Z also face a unique struggle. As an Asian American, I believe there is a need to include this unique challenge that I have endured due to the rise in anti-Asian violence.
With the stress of coming home, converting online classes, and a severe lack of inspiration, I felt the world kept moving when I could only stand still. I lacked passion. I felt lazy, unproductive, and overwhelmed by how much my life had changed in a matter of days.
On top of all of this, I have seen my community suffer. To this day, I see anti-Asian violence and remember how much increasing stress weighed on me throughout the pandemic. At first we glimpsed the xenophobia we were going to face in America. We saw it through the screens of our phones, horrific videos of people being yelled at like the virus. Even the then president perpetuated this violent verbal abuse which degenerated into physical assault. I didn’t realize how affected I was at first. Until recently, he felt that racism against Asian Americans was often overlooked because we are the “model minority”. I have even invalidated micro-aggressions that I myself have encountered throughout my life. I had to be yelled at by a passing car that I was “a dirty Asian” to realize that these ideas were nothing more than words to sweep away. Through hatred and violence, I have chosen, along with the Asian community of Pacific Islanders Desi, to use my voice.
As my sanity declined, I found my second bolt of passion. At the height of the pandemic, I was elected public relations manager for the Vietnamese Student Association at my school. Using my PR skills and the opportunity to amplify the voices of Generation Z Asian Americans gave me back my spark. Gen Z as a whole has a unique advantage because we are the generation that grew up with social media. It is a tool that we constantly use to denounce injustices. I regained my passion and used social media to tell the stories that needed to be told. While the pandemic has taken so many moments, it has also brought opportunities. If I wasn’t stuck at home, I wouldn’t have had the time and energy it took to realize how serious the situation was and start raising awareness online.
Despite missing out on the little moments that this year would have brought, I was able to participate in monumental moments by finding strength within my Asian community. I became resourceful and spoke to other Asians around the world that I would never have contacted without COVID. With the constraints of the pandemic, Generation Z has found their voice and used it regardless. Maybe my resilience doesn’t come in the form of wearing real pants to a Zoom meeting, but it’s enough to find power within my community and uplift.
SIDNI WILLIAMS is a recent graduate of the Mayborn School of Journalism at the University of North Texas.