There’s a good chance you come to this site for snark. By now, you know us. You get us. We live for gossip and pop culture analysis, mostly with a side of snark. This post will be severely lacking in that department because after watching the music video for Shawn Mendes and Khalid’s “Youth", I’ve got nothing snide or cynical to say. Not today.
Today, it’s the midterm elections in the US. There is so much at stake, including things that shouldn’t be political at all like basic human rights, and we know that young people can make a massive impact in this election. Polls say that while 18-29 year olds are typically less likely to vote in midterms, this election could change that. For the youth who haven’t turned 18 yet and are sitting this one out, their voices still matter. All year, we’ve watched young people in the US use their voices to advocate for gun reform, for women’s health, for equality, and for the issues that matter to them but also affect their elders. It’s been inspiring as hell. It’s given me hope in a time that reeks of hopelessness.
The video for “Youth” is all about hope. It opens with some of those young people I mentioned above who have spoken up this year, like Parkland shooting survivors Cameron Kasky, David Hogg, and Emma Gonzalez. Footage from the March for Our Lives rally is used including Martin Luther King, Jr.'s granddaughter Yolanda Renee King. Then, Shawn Mendes and Khalid take a backseat in their own video to real-life change makers ages four to 21.
The final three minutes of the video are dedicated to these young people. Their names, faces, talents, and ages flash on screen. They are actors, activists, athletes, artists, debate champions, drummers and dancers, a rapper, and a cancer researcher. Near the end of “Youth,” there’s Ahmed Mohamed, the young Muslim student who was arrested for bringing a homemade clock to school. You may remember his story. He’s 17 now. Ahmed can’t vote yet and neither can Austin Perine, the four-year-old self-proclaimed super hero who feeds the homeless. If you are an American of voting age, go to the polls for Ahmed and Austin. Show up for these young people who will hopefully show up for you in the future. Vote like their lives depend on it because they do.
If you are a young person voting, your vote matters. It can lift Democrats like Beto O’Rourke in Texas, Stacey Abrams in Georgia, and Andrew Gillum in Florida to victory. I mention these three candidates because they’ve all gone viral and they’ve all been touted as the “cool” candidates on social media. Their beliefs ARE cool but going viral doesn’t win elections if the same people that tap the like button don’t also get out and vote. As a Canadian who can usually ignore the US midterms, I haven’t been able to ignore these candidates. It’s hard to ignore this election since we know that what happens in the United States has an impact on the rest of the world. As white supremacy has been emboldened south of the border, almost 25,000 people in my city voted for a white supremacist for mayor. When Andrew Gillum famously said of his opponent, “I'm not calling Mr. DeSantis a racist, I'm simply saying the racists believe he's a racist", the same could be said about the premier of my province. My point is that the themes in this election, the policies and issues that are on the table, are universal.
Shawn Mendes is Canadian. He’s 20 years old. Khalid's hometown is Texas. He’s also 20. They may not be from the same place but they work in the same country. They both have tremendous influence over young people. They have the privilege of having money and power that so many young people don’t.
This is exactly how they should be using that privilege. Instead of being cynical and skeptical today, which was my plan, I’m going to hold on to the feelings of hope this video gave me.
Attached - Shawn and Khalid performing together last month in Los Angeles.