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Millennials are more diverse – in many ways

JAZELLE HUNT | 5/5/2014, 5:22 a.m.
Alabama State senior Rita Usher on campus in Montgomery, Ala., April 9. Usher plans to graduate next month and has worked several internships to broaden her skill set and improve herself. She said that approach extends to job hunting. Amanda Sowards, Montgomery Advertiser

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – Millennials are easy to spot. They’re the ones welded to their handheld devices, touting peculiar professional titles and ambitions. Born between 1980 and the early 2000s, millennials, or Generation Y, are entitled, lazy, self-centered and callow, according to popular perception.

It’s true, this generation is different – but not for those oft-repeated gloomy reasons.

As a new report from the Pew Center titled, “Millennials in Adulthood: Detached from Institutions, Networked with Friends,” demonstrates – most of the members of the millennial generation were born into an American landscape that is vastly different from that of Generation X, baby boomers and the silent generation.

For starters, this is the most racially diverse generation of Americans to date. Among adult millennials, 43 percent are non-White; among their children, the first of a yet-unnamed generation, close to half are of color. The Census estimates that the country will be majority non-White by 2043.

However, this diversity doesn’t mean that millennials have escaped the pain of racism.

Wynton Guess, a 20 year-old senior music composition major at the Boston Conservancy, spent his formative years in Jersey City, N.J., one of the nation’s most diverse cities. Since then, he has lived in Louisville and Pittsburgh, has visited other countries, and is finishing college in Boston. Throughout his childhood, he recalls friends from all over the world and the familiarity of knowing the subtle differences between cultures and nationalities. But not all of his peers share this multicultural perspective.

“Overt racism really isn’t that much of a problem. More of a problem now is ‘hipster racism,’ when people say something ironically but they really mean it, or they say insensitive things because they think it’s funny to be racist,” said Guess, who is multiracial but identifies primarily as Black.

He recalls stories from his mother regarding the racial powder keg that was school integration and bussing, and stories from his biracial father about being disowned by racist family members.

“It’s a lot more subtle,” Guess said. “When I went to college I met a lot of people who had never been out of their small hometowns, and they will be offensive without even knowing it. It’s a matter of living in your own world, and being really segregated. Like in Louisville, I notice a lot of ‘us versus them’ mentality.”

Keith Jones, who, at 33 years old, was born in the gray area between Gen X and Gen Y, also believes racism has changed.

“I’d say it’s worse for me [than my parents] in the sense that … back with Brown v. Board of Ed and those laws, people were forced to be together. The difference today is that things are still segregated, but now it’s by choice,” he said. “Racism is still there. A lot of racist people still exist and many are young.”

A racial rift also emerges on the subject of government and politics.

Fully half of all millennials identify as political independents. However, a curious shift occurs among those who have chosen sides. Among White millennials, 24 percent say they’re Democrats and another 19 percent are Republicans; among millennials of color, 37 percent identify as Democrats and 9 percent as Republicans.