On December 17, U.S. publishing company Merriam-Webster named “justice” its Word of the Year for 2018. According to the company, people looked up the meaning of the noun 74 percent more this year than in 2017.
In the past year, the U.S. socio-political climate was littered with debates about justice. From the fight for racial and gender equality to political proceedings such as Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court appointment—the crux of the biggest stories is justice.
But to millennials, what does justice really mean?
Millennials as Social Justice Warriors
For the past few years, with the help of social media, we’ve seen how millennials (and even members of Gen Z) have continuously fought for justice. Since millennials are the top users of social media platforms according to Pew Research Center, not a week goes by without a public outrage over a number of important social issues.
The appointment of Judge Brett Kavanaugh as a Supreme Court Justice sparked outrage among millennials who didn’t want an accused rapist to sit in one of the highest seats in the government. On March 24, between 200,000 to 800,000 people gathered in the country’s capital to join the March for Our Lives, a student-led rally, as a protest against gun violence.
The attitude on same-sex marriage and overall acceptance of people who belong in the LGBTQ+ community is also at its highest rate among the younger generations. According to the Pew Research Center, 74 percent on millennials and 65 percent of Generation X are in favor of same-sex marriage.
Even in the elections, millennials pulled through. One of the biggest criticisms against millennials is their lazy attitude towards voting. Historically, the younger generations have the lowest voter turnouts. But during the most recent midterm elections, 31 percent of voters between the ages of 18 and 29 turned up at polling places and voted, according to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement. This is about 10 percent more than the 2014 midterm elections millennial voting turnout, and it shows that this generation wants their voices heard, even in politics.
Seeking Social Change Every Day
There may be much criticism directed at millennials, but their fight for justice cannot be ignored. The results of Case Foundation’s annual Millennial Impact Report in 2017 revealed that millennials are “every day changemakers.” This means that this generation integrates their engagement in multiple social issues into their daily lives.
More and more millennials nowadays aren’t content with simply talking about justice. From Hollywood personalities and non-government organizations to criminal lawyers in Seattle and high school students in Florida, millennials are actively doing something to achieve the justice they’re fighting for.
Overall, the millennial generation is one that’s highly dedicated to social justice. Where there is an injustice, whether it’s online, in person or anywhere else, millennials want to respond and be heard. For millennials, justice means different things and it is reflected by what Merriam-Webster said is its Word of the Year:
“Justice has varied meanings that do a lot of work in the language—meanings that range from the technical and legal to the lofty and philosophical. For many reasons and for many meanings, one thing’s for sure: justice has been on the minds of many people in 2018.”