Time/Date: 12:30 p.m., Friday (#sxswlatino)
Panelists: Alex Wagner, MSNBC anchor, and actress and activist Rosario Dawson
Rosario Dawson isn't a millennial, but as a Latina activist, sees the power in their numbers.
"I'm just on the edge of being a millennial. I give myself away when I tell people I was the kid begging my mom for a beeper," she said at the start of Friday's South by Southwest Interactive panel called Star Power: Innovative Ways to Engage Millennials.
But as a Latina, she sees that young people, especially Latinos, are quickly gaining enough power to force the kind of change she wants to see in the world.
"Millennials will be the majority of the workforce by 2025, and by 2022, a quarter of teens in the U.S. will be Latino," she said. Currently, 20 percent of millennials are Latino, 14 percent are African American and 5 percent are Asian, making them the most diverse generation Americans have ever known.
We are already seeing millennials and young people using technology to push for change that is meaningful to them, from pushing for bag bans to challenging oil companies or Monsanto, and that's only going to increase as they get older. They are aware of issues like jobs, immigration and even the national debt that will be their problems to solve one day, but they aren't the kind of people to wait until they are older to start trying to make a difference.
Why do they have that sense of power? Technology.
Previously, people were engaged with their physical communities, but the internet has allows those communities to grow globally. "They see the digital world as their neighborhood."
People who want to connect with young people can't just send out a survey and wait until they get a response. Millennials want to feel like they are engaging in a two-way conversation, which can happen easily with social media, including apps and technologies like Google Hangout.
Millennials, as digital natives, want to be able take action immediately when they read a news article or even see a post on tumblr. That can mean buying a bag or donating to a cause they feel strongly about.
Dawson's compassion about getting young people to sign up for the Affordable Care Act is compelling. "We didn't have a pediatrician when I was a kid," she said. "We went to the emergency room. That's what everyone did. No one could afford healthcare."
For half of millennials, she points out, health coverage will cost less than their cell phone bill, but helping young people sort out the correct information on the issue is a challenge. "We are humans, we look out for each other," she said. "The ACA is not perfect. Yes, we are animals, but we don't let people crawl out into the woods and die when they get sick. The misinformation that is out there preventing people from getting healthcare is reprehensible."
Dawson, whose next movie "Chavez," comes out on March 28, talked about the parallels between the grassroots organizational efforts of Cesar Chavez and those that we use now.
Using word-of-mouth activism, Chavez was able to mobilize farmworkers across the country and even Europe to stand up for their rights. In recent years, young people have used text messaging to organize classroom walk-outs in protest of budget cuts or other issues they see as unfair, such as the dismissal of gay vice principal in Seattle.
"We are able to mass mobilize in a way that we've never been able to before," she said. "Millennials are very hopeful. They see possibilities; they see what their numbers can do. The network for good has never been so good."
News on Open Source is free and unlimited. Access to the rest of 512tech.com comes with an American-Statesman digital subscription, which also includes myStatesman.com and the ePaper edition. Subscribe at statesman.com/subscribe.