When browsing through Facebook yesterday, I came across several articles that said that Millennials (those born approximately after 1980) are about as racist as the older generations.
What the what?
The younger generation–– my generation–– are supposed to be one of the most openminded and liberal generation there is. We support LGBT equality in record numbers, care more about the environment, think nothing of interracial marriages, among a host of other similar issues. Yet we still have a problem with racism?
I am black, but the majority of my friends happen to be white. Recounting some experiences I’ve had, it makes sense that my generation is still pretty racist. Everything from being called an Oreo (someone who is black on the outside, white on the inside) to being told being told that I don’t sound like a black person, I’ve heard from friends. Self-admittedly, I’m not very politically correct, especially around close friends, so it’s more annoying to me than offensive. Still, this is definitely evidence that even educated young Millennials harbor prejudices thought to be found only in the older generation. The difference is that while parents and grandparents were more explicit about such racism and prejudices, White Millennials display their racism in a more subtle way.
And that subtlety is what makes Millennial racism dangerous–– it’s so subdued that people think nothing of it when discovered. A member of the SAE fraternity at the University of Oklahoma (the frat that sang about lynching black people) was quoted as saying, “I never thought of myself as a racist. I never even considered the possibility.” Despite singing these lyrics with his fellow frat brothers, “There will never be a n—– SAE/There will never be a n—– SAE/You can hang ‘em from a tree, but it will never start with me/There will never be a n—– SAE”, this young man never thought of himself as racist.
That, my friends, is the new racism we have to deal with. The question is if this is any better (or worse) that the explicit racism my parents and grandparents have had to deal with.
Whereas with explicit racism, I can easily dismiss and disregard the people who would say such awful things. But with my generation’s subtle racism, it is definitely harder to dismiss, at the very least confusing. If a friend jokes about me not knowing how to play basketball or makes a joke about me liking watermelon or fried chicken, do I laugh? Do I call them out on saying such stereotypical things? How do I approach this type of racism with the friends who say them?
You see how damaging this Millennial racism is compared to the old racism to which we are more accustomed.
On the other end of the spectrum, we have Millennials who don’t even believe racism is even an issue anymore. They are “colorblind”, they see no race. Which, as a matter of fact, is racism (or at least some form of it). To see no race is to ignore the history that comes with my skin color. It disregards the disadvantages I will have as a result of my skin color. It discounts the countless experiences that People of Color suffer at the hands of police and society in general. It reinforces the notion that race still doesn’t matter, making it easier to dismiss situations like Mike Brown, Eric Garner, and the more recent shooting of an unarmed black man in South Carolina.
Millennials unquestionably have problems with race and how to talk about it. It is an issue and it needs to be fixed. This is not your Grandma’s racism, but it is racism all the same.