Recently, I had participated in several conversations with individuals a good decade (or more) younger than me. Usually this isn’t a problem; despite approaching 40, I have similar interests to the younger generation including music, television, movies, etc. Sure, I recognized differences in their perceptions because of their inexperience, but I could chat with my teenage daughter with the same enjoyment as someone from my age cohort.
As time went on, though, I saw a serious anger in some of these individuals regarding racial issues. I sided with them on concerns, like White Privilege, the inherent racism of the justice system, or gender inequality in the workplace. I am an advocate for diversity and equality and I joined them in posting my disdain at the injustice found in America. Yet, somehow this wasn’t enough…
Instead of finding more allies, I faced vitriol and divisiveness on scale with the very people we were fighting against. I was not allowed to talk about my own experiences with discrimination, because (as a White Male) I would never understand them. Talks about racism devolved into semantics over what “racism” is rather than acknowledging experiences and learning from them. Requests to calm conversations and hate, including constructive approaches toward change, were met with derision and attacks.
Upon looking into similar people, I found entire blogs dedicated to belittling anyone who didn’t agree with their view on racism, appropriation, political correctness, etc. It was as if these individuals felt they were the sociocultural police, and that anyone who crossed their hidden lines was automatically the enemy. This was doubly so if you were privileged (i.e., White, Male, and/or Christian), as you would never be accepted as an ally in the fight for equality.
I talked to a number of friends, preferably of a different ethnicity or gender, to gain perspective. Was I, as a White Male, missing something? I’d already learned the hard way that “racism” was defined differently, something I accepted and added to my repertoire. Was it true that I was always the enemy and would never understand? That I couldn’t participate in any non-White cultural activity lest I be accused of appropriation? My friends disagreed and concurred with my first thought: these people were blowing things way out of proportion. There was a difference between being upset about a social justice and being so anti-oppression you end up being discriminatory yourself.
I felt a bit better that my perspective was not skewed, at least according to them, but then I wondered. Was this a generational issue or a social issue? Were my friends the minority and I simply hung with open-minded individuals? Or maybe the people I was talking to were the minority, and many millennials were as progressive as my cohorts? A few conversations with others of younger age said they’d seen this, but they thought it was just those people… not their peers.
Was there something less progressive about some millennials when it came to changes in culture? To understand that more, I guess I should discuss what I (and my peers) foresaw as positive sociocultural progression… in the next post.