Tonight, President Trump will give his first State of the Union address. While we don't know exactly what the speech will cover, it's likely that Trump, keeping in line with his administration's actions so far, won't acknowledge or address the issues about which young people care most.
Yet from LGBTQ folks to sexual assault survivors to Muslim individuals, plenty of Americans who have felt under attack over the past year have fought and will continue to advocate for these issues and fight for their rights. Here are just seven crucial issues we must all fight to protect this year.
The 2018 midterm election could be a game-changerGetty Images
One of the biggest ways Americans can make their voices heard in regard to a number of issues this year is by voting in the 2018 midterm elections. 33 senators are up for re-election as are most governorships and hundreds of state and local seats and offices across the country.
What’s more, there’s been a shift in who is running for those seats — specifically, an unprecedented number of women and plenty of young people — which could mean this election could offer new, diverse candidates the opportunity to add their voices and perspectives to crucial political decisions in 2018 and years to come.
We must continue to listen to and believe women
Women have been speaking out about the sexual harassment and abuse they’ve experienced in the workplace for decades. But this conversation hit a fever pitch in 2017 in the form of the #MeToo movement. Dozens of high profile men in multiple industries have been, and continue to be, accused of sexual misconduct, harassment, abuse, and even assault and rape.
Despite the unprecedented volume of this call for justice, however, the fight is far from over. There are countless perpetrators who have not been named, as well as survivors who still feel silenced. As actress Gabrielle Union wrote in the New York Times, “I think the floodgates have opened for white women...I don’t think it’s a coincidence whose pain has been taken seriously. Whose pain we have showed historically and continued to show. Whose pain is tolerable and whose pain is intolerable.”
We still need to do something about student loan debtGetty Images
We are in the middle of a student loan debt crisis. At nearly $1.4 trillion (yes, TRILLION) this debt is affecting plenty of young people's abilities to plan for the futures or even meet their current needs.
What's more, this problem is only exacerbated for students of color: A 2018 Brookings Institute study revealed that debt and default among black college students is at "crisis levels," according to the report; Black bachelor's graduates default at five times the rate of white bachelor's graduates and are more likely to default than white dropouts.
In order to make change, we need to make sure our voting process is fairGetty Images
While encouraging Americans to vote is crucial, voter turnout is hardly the only issue that should be on our radar when it comes to elections. Partisan gerrymandering, or the way state legislators have drawn congressional maps to give Republicans an advantage, is a big issue — and one we should pay far more attention to this year. For example, while Democrats have been projected to win 54 percent of votes in the midterm election, that could still translate to Republicans winning the majority of House seats.
Luckily, the Supreme Court is taking on this issue this year: In June, 2018 they’re expected to rule on the case Gill v. Whitford, which focuses on one of the biggest examples of gerrymandering in the U.S. During the 2012 election in Wisconsin, Democrats won the majority of votes in the state, but Republicans still ended up winning 60 of 99 Assembly seats — just because of the way the maps were drawn. The Supreme Court’s decision, therefore, could make a big difference in making future elections more fair.
Women will still have to fight for the right to make choices about their bodiesGetty Images
While 2017 actually saw a surge in pro-choice legislation introduced into state legislatures, a number of abortion bans were also passed on the state level this year. President Trump also already proposed attacks to Planned Parenthood's federal funding in his 2018 budget proposal.
Activists are also keeping an eye on Title X, the largest family planning program in the country, which may be at risk in 2018, Planned Parenthood’s Assistant Director for Federal Communications Beth Lynk told MTV News. Lynk also noted that we could see attacks on comprehensive sex education, like ending the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program and replacing it with Sexual Risk Avoidance Education.
“The power is really in young people’s hands to really shape and fight for the future we want to see — and we’re seeing that happen already,” Lynk said. "Speak out about what you care about because that’s the only way we’ll make change.”
Young, undocumented immigrants' futures are at riskGetty Images
Since 2012, DACA, or the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, has granted legal status to about 800,000 young undocumented immigrants who were brought to the country as children. These individuals are now susceptible to deportation, no matter how long they’ve been in this country, the skills they offer our economy and culture, and family members they have here.
Should Congress pass legislation to help Dreamers by the March 5 deadline, the recipients of DACA, “would be able to plan their lives the way they wanted to,” Ignacia Rodriguez, a staff attorney at the National Immigration Law Center (NILC) told MTV News. “2018 would be very promising [for them].”
LGBTQIA+ folks will continue to fight for their rightsGetty Images
The LGBTQIA+ community faced a number of blows in 2017. From the Department of Education and Department of Justice's guidance that rescinded protection for transgender students' restroom rights — and the Supreme Court rejecting trans youth Gavin Grimm's Supreme Court case on the matter — to Trump's call to ban transgender soldiers from the military, trans individuals particularly felt threatened by our new political administration.
But there's plenty of reason to remain hopeful that we'll see change in 2018. An incredible number of LGBTQ+ politicians won local elections at the end of 2017, and 2018 will also see the Supreme Court hear the Masterpiece Cakeshop case — a potentially pivotal one for LGBTQ+ rights.