Largest Social Movements of the 20teens
Updated: Feb 11
Throughout these past 10 years, we’ve seen dozens of social movements emerge. Below is a timeline of these revolutionary crusades.
To kick of the 2010s, many united to advocate for the use of the term Latinx, a gender-neutral alternative to Latino/a, which have male and female connotations. While the term appeared in the 2000s, it wasn’t until the turn of the decade that it began to gain popularity.
In 2011, under the Obama administration, the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy was repealed. This was a discriminatory law that for 17 years, prohibited qualified gay and lesbian Americans from serving in the armed forces. LGBTQ+ service members previously discharged under DADT were given the opportunity to re-enlist.
2012 brought us the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Young undocumented immigrants, also referred to as Dreamers, spent the year fighting for rights in the country they call home. On June 15, 2012, after two protesters launched a hunger strike to call attention to the alarming number of deportations that had taken place that year, Obama installed DACA through an executive order. The program provided deportation protections, work permits, and Social Security numbers to about 690,000 undocumented immigrants who, before 2007, were younger than 16 when they came to the United States.
The year 2013 was monumental for Black Americans, as it was the year of the beginning of a powerful movement known as Black Lives Matter. The hashtag first appeared in 2012 after the murder of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed 17-year-old black boy, by Officer George Zimmerman. It wasn’t until his acquittal, however, that Alicia Garza, Opal Tometi, and Patrisse Cullors made the foundation official. The movement sought to fight the targeting and murdering of African Americans by police officers, and its importance has been validated countless times since its founding on July 13th.
2014 was primarily a continuation of the year prior, but 2015 marked a major milestone in U.S. history, specifically for LGBTQ+ communities. On April 24th, Olympic gold-medalist and reality star formerly known as Bruce Jenner came out to the public as transgender. Since, she has successfully used her high-profile image to make visible, and even change, the public perception and opinions of transgender people in modern day culture around the world. Not too long afterwards, the Supreme Court ruled to legalize same-sex marriage in all 50 states. Thousands rallied all around the country to celebrate the victory. “The legalization of gay marriage was really big for my family,” shares LHS student Maggie Murray (12), who self-identifies as queer and has relatives that are in the LGBTQ+ community.
In 2016, following the election of President Donald Trump, people gathered in various cities to protest the win and show their disdain. Additionally, the #NoDAPL movement was launched by a group of young Native Americans who claimed the title of water protectors in response to the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline. It began when Anna Lee Rain Yellowhammer, a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, started a Change.org petition titled, “Stop the Dakota Access Pipeline.” From there, young activists began using the hashtags like #StandWithStandingRock to spread the word, garnering the support of hundreds of thousands of people. Once Trump took office, he reversed the block on DAPL. Fights against pipelines all across the country have continued.
2017 was the year of female empowerment. The year started off strong with the then largest single-day protest in U.S. history. On January 21, the Women’s March on Washington swept hundreds of cities worldwide and a million protesters hit the streets. Approximately 10 months later, the #MeToo movement (originally started by Tarana Burke in 2006) went viral. The New York Times published an article detailing accusations of sexual misconduct against Harvey Weinstein. Alyssa Milano’s call for women to use the hashtag and highlight their experiences publicly resulted in the hashtag gaining more traction and empowered other women (and men), celebrities and not, to come forward to discuss their experiences with sexual harassment.
On February 14 of 2018, one of the deadliest mass shootings in modern U.S. history took place at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. When a former student opened fire with a semi-automatic rifle on the school campus, killing 17 people, student survivors from Parkland immediately acted, becoming well-known activists with a clear message: #NeverAgain. On March 24, March for Our Lives - coordinated by the student activists - took place in D.C. with more than 830 smaller marches taking place worldwide, including a local one organized by Maggie Murray along with other Madison teens. Organizers estimated that 800,000 people were in attendance in D.C. alone, which would make March for Our Lives the biggest one-day protest in recorded history.
Fridays for Future was initiated in 2018 by Greta Thunberg, and really gained momentum in 2019. The global movement began when the Swedish teenager started a solo school strike to protest inaction regarding climate change. Protest against ICE has also been extremely popular as Trump administration policy has raised concerns about our system in regard to the immigration.
To the history-makers who are fighting for a better tomorrow, these major moments are proof that anyone, regardless of age, location, and experience, can make a difference. “[Being an activist means] believing in a cause, and even if you just change one person’s mind, that is change, and that is huge,” Murray reminds us. “If you’re under 18, the only way you have power in our democracy is to use your voice and be a part of movements. If you want change, you have to fight for it and there’s no age restriction. The American political system is an ever-swinging pendulum and you have to fight to get the smallest bit of progress in it. Setbacks are gonna happen but you have to just keep pushing because of you give up, nothing is going to happen.” These major moments have changed minds, laws, communities, and the world. They will only continue to do so as we move forward into a new era.