America in its current climate has driven many to point fingers contributing to an already divisive country, of which, we tend to focus more on the conditions than the escape route. But, truth be told it’s important to examine the past and pinpoint where did we possibly drop the ball. From Baby Boomers to Millennials, each generation has fought for and still fights for equal rights respectively, but there is disconnect between the age groups. I’ve had Baby boomers personally tell me that each high school grad should have to do several years in the Armed forces to learn “respect”. The same boomers complain that millennials are lazy, materialistic and too occupied with our phones. I’d be remised if I didn’t point out that when Baby boomers were our age, they faced the same criticisms from previous generations. They were called entitled, lazy and self-absorbed. The generation before the Boomers, the “Greatest Generation”, started with nothing and created a strong economy for boomers to thrive in. Ironically, Boomers had a huge effect on consumer spending and society to where the younger boomers were the “Generation Jones” thus the term “Keeping up with the Joneses”.
This was a post-war generation of great social and political change based on values like individual choice, prosperity, ownership and community involvement in chase of the “American Dream”. A time where you have the Civil Rights movement along with the Women’s movement, the Sexual Revolution, the Peace movement, and many others. In the Digital Age, millennials have inherited many of the same values like being anti-government and demanding equality. Thankfully, we have the convenience of the internet and social media as tools in our fight.
The difference however is the kind of country Millennials are forced to grow up in compared to our Boomers. The socioeconomic factors that cripple us especially those of color have roots that stem from actions of the Boomer generation. One factor to discuss is social mobility. Baby boomers grew up one of the strongest economic expansion in American history giving way to plenty job opportunities, in addition, school was more affordable ranging from $950 to $2945 for public college from 1964 to 1982. This meant that after 18 weeks at a full-time job all your expenses could be paid for in full. Add in the fact that less education was required for a decent salaried job than present time. One income could support a Boomer family economically whereas millennials are forced to hold multiple jobs to live “comfortably”. Income tax rates had fallen back then and gas was dirt cheap which helped lead to some of the environmental problems we face today.
It was in fact Boomers, including those in Washington, who crippled the economy forcing future generations to higher taxes and reduced benefits while benefitting the most. The propagandist Ronald Reagan piggybacked off the sentiment that the youth were spoiled to win the presidency and introduced ways to turn college more into a for-profit business. His War on Drugs targeted cheaper drugs found in poorer areas generally populated by minorities leading to mass incarceration of Black, Brown and poor people.
We now know of Reagan and the CIA’s involvement in cocaine trafficking and smuggling drugs into our inner cities. Due to this systemic racism, many of our parents were taken away from us through drugs, death or imprisonment and others avoided the “politics” of being pro-Black due to poverty stricken conditions. Divorce rates rose, stay at home moms began working leading to “Latch-key” Kids” at home by themselves. Without parental supervision, this lead to a rise in juvenile crime, drug abuse, sexual promiscuity and depression. We as the offspring of this generation grew up detached. Many of us never had the normalcy of a nuclear family and some inherited undiagnosed mental illnesses.
For Generation X, it was hard to effectively fight the fight yet maintain a job and safety for their families and the economic position of millennials depends largely on their parents. Many of us were left to rely on poor white-washed education which glossed over our history and subconsciously tried to deter us from empowerment amongst one another. Millennials read about our previous leaders getting cut down, followers unable to pick up the baton with social justice movements dismantled by the government. Textbooks basically would say “Yeah, Y’all had the Black Panthers……now Y’all don’t…..turn to next chapter” adding to the illusion of a post-racial society. They replayed Roots in auditoriums and taught us about the same 7-8 Black Heroes to bore us purposely. We grew up without equal representation on the TV screen or books and magazines and as far as we knew growing up we had only ever been slaves in history.
Many grew up in single parent homes where Mom (Or Dad) just simply didn’t have to time to teach Black history because they worked multiple jobs and/or went to school. We were raised by step-parents, older siblings and cousins. As minorities, we are constantly trying to educate ourselves and work hard chasing that same “American Dream” but we lie in a bed previous generations have made for us. Millennials suffer from depression, anxiety, stress, sleep deprivation plus more: due to the cost of living, education costs and systemic oppression in its various forms. A time where social awareness meets the digital era, Black millennials have come more and more to grips that we aren’t living in a post-racial society. With every viral video or microaggression, we internalize this trauma and/or anger without knowing how to process it. It is now these Baby boomers with political power playing with our very lives. Our President-Elect Donald Trump has proven to be unfit for presidency as he assembles billionaires to join his cabinet to “make America great again” while planning to impede on the rights of 99%. What we need is a revolution of great magnitude and more than ever is the time for us to bridge the gap by having conversations, drop the blame game and fix what’s wrong to build a better future.
“Our people have made the mistake of confusing the methods with the objectives. As long as we agree on objectives, we should never fall out with each other just because we believe in different methods, or tactics, or strategy. We have to keep in mind at all times that we are not fighting for separation. We are fighting for recognition as free humans in this society.” – Malcolm X