All Millennials Are White, Educated And Well-Off
In the past year, Google detected 13,000,000 mentions of “millennials” in its database of the Internet. In the past hour of writing this alone, there were over 3,300 mentions. By contrast, the numbers for the term “Aleppo” are 6,000,000 in a year and 2,000 in the hour since writing this. Rest assured, some Google searchers probably had trouble spelling “Aleppo” correctly… or maybe I’m too optimistic and 6,000,000 people were actually searching for “Aleppo pepper” recipes.
To many between the ages of 18 and 34, “millennial” talk is infuriating. Listening to the very generation that raised you talk about how entitled you are is profoundly ironic. If I weren’t a millennial hipster and pacifist, I’d be up in arms about that.
Every expert is talking about generational differences these days. If you haven’t had a chance to listen to Simon Sinek on the “Millennials Question,” here’s your chance. I’ll go make a cup of tea and wait while you watch:
**Warning: if you can’t make it past the first few minutes, pause, take a breath and listen on with an open mind.
First of all, props to this guy’s look. The clear rimmed glasses, 5 o’clock shadow, and epigrammatic manner of speaking gives me some confidence that I’m listening to an expert. I’m not usually one to emphasize appearance but, let’s all just pause to notice how he could be on the cast of any Silicon Valley movie as the CEO of a surprisingly successful, but trouble-wrought startup.
When I first heard Sinek say millennials want “free food and bean bags,” my first reaction was, “Who is this guy?” Simon Sinek is an author, speaker, and marketing consultant who, as you may have guessed, is not a millennial. He’s got an impressive resume, and despite the validity of the marketing field as a science, his positions are not necessarily infallible.
In the video, he attributes the millennial culture and challenges to 4 factors: parenting, technology, impatience, environment.
Our parents failed us, and their parents, and their parents
I always found it ironic that a generation is blamed for its upbringing, a point I gather Sinek would agree with. But we definitely differ on one thing: I was never told that I was undeservedly special as a child or that I could get anything I want by wanting it.
This notion is particularly incredulous, laughable, and upsetting to me as a young woman of color. Growing up, I was taught I would have to work to be special, and work twice as hard to be half as special as white men. So from the first 1:30 of the video, I knew this argument was geared mainly toward a white audience. *sips aforementioned tea*
Facebook living your dinner convos
Sinek goes on to assert millennials are addicted to their phones, likening your Instaddiction to unlimited access to the liquor cabinet from a young age. Again, I found this claim oversimplified. Not every millennial was afforded a smartphone at a young age and some can’t afford one now. As ubiquitous as cell phones are to the middle class, looks like poor people may have to choose between a phone and healthcare. So from 4:16 of the video, I knew this argument was geared mainly toward a middle and upper-class audience. *Tea’s cold, but I’m still sipping*
I admit Sinek’s comparison seems hyperbolic and oversimplified but he makes a resonating point: millennials have trouble making meaningful relationships.
Raise your hand if you or someone you know has been known to Tweet while in a room of perfectly breathing and conversationally apt human beings? While a digital connection with humans and the global community is important, it often keeps us from mindfully enjoying what and who is in front of us.
Adulting is the same as "fake it ‘til you make it"
Around 8:30 Sinek attempts to encourage millennials by assuring them that making an impact takes time. But as James Baldwin would challenge, how much time do you want for “impact?” Are millennials wrong for wanting change quickly?
When it comes to social change, impact cannot take time. See: Syrian refugee crisis and increase in race-based hate crime in the US. So from 8:30 on, I know Sinek was likely talking about slacktivists or for-profit business or STEM majors. But I’m not sipping tea this time because Sinek makes an excellent point for millennials seeking positive change and global justice– you don’t have all the answers, but with patience you can see tangible results.
My baby can’t tell the difference between a magazine and an iPad
Raise your hand if you’ve ever seen a toddler playing with an iPhone, Kindle Fire, or Wii with more ease than you can avoid fake news on Facebook. (Now off to the comment section again. You know the drill.) If you praised the child’s adaptability and didn’t roll your eyes, congrats! You may have overcome ageism! Otherwise, you’re destined to repeat the same condescendence you feel from older generations.
Compared to other age groups, millennials have been “dealt a band hand.” Sinek repeats this phrase more than once to describe the millennial condition as a factor of nature over nurture. While he’s right, it’s important to note, there is nothing new under the sun. Every generation had its trauma and triumphs. See this chart for an accurate depiction:
As per my “peer-reviewed” chart above, each generation is presented with its own challenges that often scare the older generations. Baby boomers scared their parents by bringing home “colored” boyfriends; Gen-Xers tested their parents with grunge clothes; Millennials with Nickleback; Gen-Zers with cyborg-like characteristics.
Side Eye for Millennials, but not for movements
Why is it important that I dissect this video? It didn’t have to be Mr. Sinek’s viewpoint. I could have been analyzed any of those 13 million Google results on millennials. It’s important because creating differences among generations is often a tool for dismissing progress.
All too often, we chalk up movements like Black Lives Matter, Free Palestine, and Fees Must Fall to millennial entitlement. I’d invite those who believe this to consider that these movements are decades old in ideology and are not about entitlement, but rather they are about inalienable rights.
What’s more, if we cannot agree on the exact ages of the millennial generation, how can we generalize it with arbitrary characteristics? Does this mean that we should disregard “millennial talk?”
Naw. It just means you must take it with a grain (or barrel) of salt. Or, if you’re like me, with two sugars for the tea you’ll be sipping when criticizing the inclusiveness of millennial research.
Ultimately, Sinek’s arguments yield wise advice. All generations are responsible for the upbringing and development of future generations. As for millennials, let’s be mindful of the present. The brightest of our youngest generations didn’t get their inspiration from Pinterest, but from reflections on real life. You may not feel it, but your story is worth telling.
So here’s to the Millennials and Gen-Zers that are putting in work in the music industry and telling their stories. Some of them may not be big names yet, but they certainly make an impact.
Young artists making A (W)impact
Charlotte Day Wilson (23), Kewku Collins (19), Noname (25), Rayvn Lanae (17), Rosie Lowe (25), Gavin Turkey (29) & Tokimonsta (more power to this wom who doesn’t disclose her age), Vera Blue (23), Ximena Sarinana (31), Yuna (30), and Zak Abel (22)