Millennials are a tough generation. They have the privilege to be the first generation to live their formative years under terror threats and two controversial wars. They ushered in a new era of school violence with the Columbine shooting. They witnessed firsthand hand domestic terrorism with the Oklahoma City bombing. They had to get comfortable with carnage from college shootings like the Virginia Tech massacre. They saw the hypocritical drama of the Clinton/Lewinsky affair. They survived the Indonesian tsunami and Hurricane Katrina. They beheld the political theater of the Gore/Bush hanging chad election.
But their biggest challenge may be finding their inclusion footing. An April 2014 MTV study from the network this generation grew up on, reveals that most millennials feel focusing on racial issues is not a good thing.
The study was a collaborative project between MTV Strategic Insights and David Binder Research that sought to measure how millennials respond to issues surrounding bias. Their findings were eye opening:
• 72% believe their generation believes in equality more than older people.
• 58% believe that as their generation moves into leadership roles, racism will become less and less of an issue.
• 62% (58% for people of color, 64% white) believe that having a Black President demonstrates that racial minority groups have the same opportunities as white people.
• 67% believe having a Black President shows race does not have to be a barrier to accomplishments.
• 67% agree that the USA is still a deeply divided place despite having a Black President and this is stronger for people of color (70% vs. 64% for Whites).
• 73% believe never considering race would improve society.
• 68% believe focusing on race prevents society from becoming color blind.
• 70% say they don’t see racial minority groups any differently than they see white people.
• 70% believe it’s never fair to give preferential treatment to one race over another, regardless of historical inequalities (65% for people of color, 74% for Whites).
• (48%) believe it is wrong to draw attention to someone’s race even if you are being positive.
The problem Post-racial millennials have is the problem most of us have with racism. We think the only way to deal with racial matters is to take race out of the equation rather than facing it head on. We all agree that unequal treatment is wrong. But not seeing race as part of that unequal treatment is equally wrong. You cannot fight racism by pretending it does not exist. Confronting racism requires looking unequal treatment in the eye as well as the unequal conditions that created the unequal treatment in the first place.
Isn’t it ironic, that the generation that was raised to hate racism does not see it at all? The question is will their denial of racism perpetuate it for future generations.