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Sarah Gaby, “Becoming Activists: How Organizations Engage and Politicize Youth”
October 19, 2016 @ 12:00 PM - 1:00 PM UTC-4
Sarah Gaby, “Becoming Activists: How Organizations Engage and Politicize Youth” One promise of civic associations in the democratic realm is that they will reduce oppression (Galston 2000) and teach appreciation for differences (Theiss-Morse and Hibbing 2013). This positive outcome is supposed to result from face-to-face interactions across group boundaries. But, how can they meet that promise when today’s civic organizations are thought to be divided across race, ethnic, and socioeconomic status group lines? Using ethnographic and interview data from five youth civic associations, this article outlines the three primary ways that organizations respond to race/ethnic and socioeconomic issues, from active silence to systematic engagement. I find that the type of discourse around inequality is shaped by the intentionality of group leaders and participants, rather than racial/ethnic and socioeconomic homogeneity. I argue that the homogeneity of the group may influence the failure of civic organizations to provide the promises of participation for reducing oppression and increasing tolerance. However, more important is the organizations’ ability to engage in facing issues of inequality, including issues within the organization. I find that organizations can overcome barriers to participation across social cleavages by including diverse participants in activities and providing youth with autonomy to engage in discourse around inequality. In other words, having a heterogeneous group is a step towards creating exchanges and understanding across sociodemographic groups, but it is not sufficient for achieving this goal. Groups must also engage in discourse around inequality both within and outside of the organization.