Session: COVID-19 and Youth Engagement in Politics: An Intersectional Approach (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

All live presentations are in Eastern time zone.

8 COVID-19 and Youth Engagement in Politics: An Intersectional Approach

Wednesday, January 20, 2021: 1:30 PM-2:30 PM
Cluster: Communities and Neighborhoods
Jason Plummer, University of California, Los Angeles, Skye Allmang, Rutgers University and Victoria Copeland, University of California, Los Angeles
National crises have the potential to precipitate large-scale social and political change. Numerous historical examples highlight the ways in which institutions, policies, and programs for young people, in particular, can be affected by times of crisis. For example, experiences of political exclusion during the Vietnam War-era sowed the seeds for expanding the right to vote to 18-year-olds. However, history also has examples of a retreat from justice, and we know that responses to crises do not always lead to a more socially just society. This raises the question: how will COVID-19 affect young people's political engagement, and how can social workers help to address racial and socioeconomic disparities in engagement at this time using research, policy, and practice?

Our roundtable will bring in lessons from theory, research from previous economic crises, and preliminary data from a rapid research study on COVID-19 to shed light on how young people respond to, and are affected by large-scale economic shocks, highlighting the impact that larger systems and policies have on youth from various race/ethnicity, gender, and socioeconomic backgrounds. We will utilize an intersectional approach in which themes of structural inequities, overlapping oppressive systems, and poverty become heightened in times of crisis.

This roundtable will create a space to collectively think through ways in social work can respond to the current crisis, to ensure that all young people have their voices heard. The first presenter will open the roundtable by describing findings from developmental research, which has found that among youth of color, awareness of systematic injustice and unfairness increases measures of civic engagement, advocacy, and increased voting and political actions. The second speaker will then describe lessons from previous crises such as the Great Depression and the Vietnam War, and the new social contracts that were negotiated in those times. The third and final speaker will describe the development of, and preliminary results from, a rapid response research project on COVID-19 and young people's participation in politics and the labor market. We will then facilitate a discussion with audience members around lessons from their research and work with young people in the current moment.

Social workers are bound by the NASW Code of Ethics to "provide appropriate professional services in public emergencies to the greatest extent possible". This roundtable challenges the idea that when the COVID-19 pandemic begins to fade, there will or should be a "return to normal". We argue instead that social workers should focus on thinking through ways to support positive youth development, by promoting political engagement, in order to work collaboratively with young people to address the inequalities that pre-dated-- but have now been magnified by-- COVID-19.

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