Millennials are the first generation to openly reject racially motivated beliefs and binary gender identifications; they are the first generation prepared to just love.
Dear Brooklyn Readers,
Despite growing up very poor and in a single-parent household, I had a relatively happy childhood. I grew up watching Soupy Sales, Good Times and Welcome Back Kotter; listening to Stevie Wonder, Vicki Sue Robinson and Curtis Mayfield; jumping on pogo sticks during the summer months and practicing my clarinet during the winter months. And every 30 days, I joined a dozen other girls in a circle to raise my two right fingers and swore "to serve my God, my country, mankind and to live by the Girl Scout Law." I am part of "Generation X," those born between the years of 1965 and 1980. My childhood was an even mix of struggle, discipline and joy.
The kids today? (You know, the ones we refer to as "Millennials" and "Post-Millennials") Well, theirs is a whole other story! Their childhoods were filled with cell phones, social media, video games, reality TV, free internet porn, and World Star Hip Hop. Just this past week, 15 million Millennials tuned in to watch rapper Blac Youngsta live stream a stripper party-- that's more people than those watching the NBA Slam Dunk taking place that same night.
For the most part, we Gen X'ers, and even more so the Baby Boomers, seem to agree: Millennials come off as entitled, self-absorbed, disengaged, undisciplined, quick to anger, narcissistic and generally social media-obsessed. However, this group of youth born between 1982 and 2000 now numbers 83.1 million and represents more than one quarter of the nation's population.
In fact, according to new U.S. Census Bureau estimates, their size already exceeds that of the 75.4 million Baby Boomers. So, though the tendency may be to dismiss this wayward group, we must pay close attention. Because there are a lot of them, and many of them seem troubled, and guess what? They've got next.
The fatal mass shooting of 17 Douglas High School students by 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz in Parkland, Florida, on Wednesday offers the most recent example of chaos and tragedy at the hands of a Post-Millennial. Here it is, only February, and we're witnessing the third mass shooting at a school this year. And in every incident, it is said the young shooter suffered from mental illness and depression. Something's trending with Millennials, and it's definitely #nobueno. It's clear this up-and-coming generation is troubled by something the rest of us are clueless about. And worse, violence, death or suicide too often is the outcome.
According to the Gun Violence Archive, which compiles data from shooting incidents, there were 307 mass shootings from January 1, 2017 to November 5, 2017. That averages to almost 7 mass shootings a week. Chicago recorded 650 murders in 2017 from gun violence and nearly 20 percent of the victims were children.
So, what is going on? After all, with the acceleration of technology, they have had a far more coddled life than we ever did (I remember when getting our first microwave was a huge deal). They've had practically everything handed to them ready-made, so what bone do they have to pick?
To answer that question, we need only look in the mirror: We happened to them. Let's consider the examples we've set: We've allowed iPads to be their babysitter, reality tv to be their entertainment, and social media and violent video games to be their free time hangout. To make matters worse, the person we have elected to serve as their national leader is a philanderer and misogynist who defends white nationalists, nourishes his body with McDonald's and diet Coke, lies habitually and tweets racist and bigoted messages on a daily.
Yes, Millennials are very different from us. But not all of their differences are a bad thing: They actually intuit technological devices, beginning as toddlers. And their level of creativity is exceptional. They watched and began communicating with peers of other cultures as soon as they could log onto the Internet, so in a sense, they are far more cultured.
Many of these Millennials grew up knowing mostly only a black president, so to them, diversity in leadership is normal, a positive thing. And music hip hop, reggae and trap is not black music any more than punk, rock and electronic is white music. It's just all... their music! They are the first generation to openly reject racially motivated belief systems and binary gender identifications. They are the first generation prepared to let go of the sociological hangups we can't seem to get past. They are the first generation prepared to just love.
Millennials are, perhaps, the brightest, quickest, most creative, open-minded and heartiest generation we have seen to date. And as much as we might rail against their entitlement and narcissism, if they seem disconnected from us, maybe it's because they're experiencing cognitive dissonance watching us behave like children while clinging to outdated beliefs. Who wouldn't be disappointed coming of age in a struggling economy, with low job prospects and $100,000 school loans looming over their heads? Who wouldn't be frustrated when, in 2018, their lawmakers seem more interested in money, guns and the color of people's skin than they are in securing "justice for all?"
It's enough to make a person... depressed.
It's time for the older generations to release old belief systems and set better examples. It's time we figure out a way to bridge the gap. It's time to prepare the younger generation to take the wheel, so they can get on with the business of leading.
C. Zawadi Morris, Publisher