Wednesday, April 29, 2009


Millennials Inhabit A Different World
They have not had to confront the sins of the past
By Thomas Ford

As a generation that was born into, and has actively grown up in a largely desegregated US society, it’s probably not too far off the radar to expect a growing support for multiculturalism. Members of this generation, sometimes called Millennials and Generation Y, are said to have a growing subconscious appreciation for diversity and equality.

According to the report, “Adults of Generation Y in the US: Hitting the Demographic, Lifestyle and Marketing Mark,” by, they are the most ethnically diverse generation in US history. So, it would only seem natural for the newcomers permeating the various ethnic communities in society to grow more accepting of one another.


Maybe these new attitudes should be attributed to the Millennials’ upbringing and not directly to the fact that they were born into a different type of society than previous generations.

Charlene Thomas, third from the left in the back row, with a diverse group of her friends.

One thing is for sure: these people have been born at a critical time in US history; a time when things are certainly changing. Because they are the future leaders of this country, it’s absolutely necessary that we, as a nation, take a look at how and why they are changing as human beings.

Charlene Thomas, a 20 year-old student at North Carolina State University, attributes her more accepting and culturally appreciative perspective of others to both society and the way she was raised. “I feel like I was so immersed in a diverse (school) community that I barely even realized that I was," says Thomas. “It was such a big part of my life that it had to be important.”

Thomas says when she meets someone, she sees more of the person and less of the color, but recognizes that not just the school community has contributed to her open-mindedness. “My family didn’t really teach me tolerance but practiced it so much that I never even really knew there were different types of people until at least elementary school,” she says.

Throughout her education, including middle school, and high school, Thomas lived in Maryland, a state with strong pockets of liberalism. But for college, Thomas moved to North Carolina, which is more conservative. However, Thomas found that in her transition, her peers’ outlooks were not much different than her own.

“The culture is different in North Carolina, but the people aren't, really. I get treated differently, but it isn’t because of my race or background; it's just how people treat each other down here.” She jokes, “God forbid if a boy opens the door and walks inside before (a girl!)”

It would seem that this shift in attitude and perspective is more generational than circumstantial. It’s possible that the way the Baby Boomers, the previous generation, raised the Millennials is a result of societal desegregation efforts and the change has become widespread.

In fact, many Baby Boomers have noticed a change in both their children and in themselves. Gerald Ford, 57, is a director at TSA Homeland Security with three children, ages 37, 25, and 19.

Says Ford, “(the Millennials) have grown up with little realization of racism as those in the past have. For example, they are very accustomed to interracial marriages. They did not go to schools that were consciously integrated. They were integrated because their neighborhoods were already integrated.”

Ford also believes that the current administration would not be possible without the Millennials growing up in the existing environment. “President Barack Obama is the product of an interracial marriage, but no one even notices,” Ford says. “He is president, in my opinion, because we, and in particular white America, to a great degree, have moved beyond (issues of racism).”

Of course, the Baby Boomers were a major part of this election, too. President Obama wasn’t just elected by the Millennials; the older generations had a part in it, as well. So, were they, at any time, really that different than the Millennials? Are their worlds really that different from one another?

Ford, who grew up in the 1950s and 60s, argues that the differences are vast. “If you grew up when I did, you constantly, yet unconsciously measure many things done by white Americans as to whether it is racially motivated. (Younger generations) likely do not think about that at all,” he says. “Same, I think, holds true for sexual considerations. There is much less despising towards same-sex relationships.”

If what Ford says is true, and there really are such vast differences between the two generations, then the older generations aren’t the ones leading the change; the Millennials are. They are helping to teach their parents to be more accepting, and to embrace all cultures and ethnic backgrounds. This may be because, according to Ford, “…the Millennials have not had to confront the sins of the past to a great degree.”

Says Ford, “Bottom line: it's a different world for the Millennials.”

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