Centering Black Millennials
Millennials face a plethora of problems today: middling wages, student debt, working in a gig economy with little security, and an over-priced housing market. According to Reniqua Allen’s report in the New Republic, black millennials face all the same problems as their white counterparts but to an even higher degree. As a result of historical discrimination, black millennials lag behind their white counterparts in wealth and job prospects, being more likely to live in poverty or bear the burdens of large student loan debts. Beyond finances, black millennials also have a harder time voting, have less access to health care, and face greater challenges finding justice in the legal system. Perhaps the greatest issue of all, and the most ironic, is that, in an allegedly “post-racial” era, black millennials are led to believe that they have the same opportunities as their white counterparts.
Despite an increase in acceptance of inter-racial relationships, and greater representation in historically-white colleges, many millennials still harbor stereotypes of blacks inherited from previous generations. Research has found that 31 percent of white millennials believe blacks are lazier than whites, and 23 percent say that black people are not as intelligent either; these figures are statistically similar to previous generations.
Despite facing ongoing, systemic racism black millennials remain persistent and optimistic. African American politicians refuse to white-wash their political personas, and openly support the Black Lives Matter movement. Even though black millennial voter turn-out dropped from 55 percent in 2012 to 51 percent in 2016, they were big supporters of presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, showing that young blacks are eager for a more progressive pathway that candidates like Sanders promise.
Hearing, reading, and seeing the stories of Black Millennials are crucial to understanding their experience and what that experience says about our country. After 400 years of living in this country, we still have to remind the world that Black Lives Matter.
Source: Reniqua Allen, “The Missing Black Millennial,” The New Republic, February 20, 2019, https://newrepublic.com/article/153122/missing-black-millennial.
Student Researcher: James Giusti (College of Marin)
Faculty Evaluator: Susan Rahman (College of Marin)