Merced, Calif.– Last month, I attended a City Council town hall. Disturbed by the lack of opportunities for Merced’s young people and the reluctance of my city to invest in its youth, I wanted to put these issues before the council.
I was nervous, and had to build up the courage to stand and speak.
When I did, I addressed the council with the utmost respect and conviction, determined to get my message across. But as I was speaking, I noticed that several council members were rolling their eyes, while others began to interrupt me.
Rather than let me speak, council members peppered me with questions, many of which they knew went beyond my expertise. Even the mayor, in his body language and the comments he made, conveyed disdain. I doubt he heard anything I said.
The message was clear: my opinion, my voice did not matter to the leadership of Merced. I felt disrespected and discouraged.
As an 18-year-old Latino male, I have grown accustomed to such treatment in public. But as a soon-to-be voter, I hold our elected officials to a higher standard and expect that they will at a minimum show respect to the community they have been asked to represent.
In order for our city to grow and prosper, we have to treat each other with respect and dignity. This includes calling for our City Council to behave professionally and holding them accountable when they don’t.
My opinion matters, as do those of my peers in Merced, who make up almost half of the city’s population. That is a lot of votes. Winning their support means providing them with greater opportunities than currently exist. It means listening to what they have to say.
David Macias, 18, is a proud Mexican-American from the Central Valley. A native of Merced, he sees the importance of being engaged in his community and changing the status quo. David has been a Youth Reporter for We’Ce Youth Media for the past year. He likes to report on issues plaguing his neighborhood and has a huge interest in music and poetry.