African-Americans of Generation Y


I have always wondered what, if anything, I have in common with the contemporaries of my generation. They say that every generation takes on a personality of its own and I wondered how true that might be.

After searching on the internet for information and characteristics about generation Y, my generation, I came to the conclusion that most of what I read was focused on White Americans of Generation Y. This is not to say that White Americans and Black Americans of generation Y don’t share things in common, we do, but I feel that in order to more accurately understand our place in society as a generation, we have to consider the African-American experience.

Be forewarned, that I am by no means a sociologist, I am simply stating what I’ve observed and what I have read.

General Facts About Generation Y: 

– Those Born Between 1980 and 1999, some sociologist will include those born between 1978 and 2000

– They were old enough to recall September 11th

– They are children of the Baby Boomers and Grandchildren of the greatest generation (some will be children of young Generation X parents)

– They are the most college educated generation in history

– They are the first generation to grow up on the internet, although many remember the days before cells phones (such as myself)

– Many who are now young adults are unemployed due to the recession

– Their inability to obtain work, despite being most educated generation has caused them to live longer at home and marry later. They are a peter pan generation

– Many of their parents are helicopter parents, hovering over their children and making unilateral decisions for them

– They’ve never known a time before HIV

African-Americans of Generation Y: 

We are the children of the Baby Boomers (or for some Generation X)

– We are the grandchildren of the Greatest Generation.

– Many of our parents grew up during the 60s/70s Black power movement

– Many of our Grandfathers fought in segregated military during WWII

– Our Grandparents grew up during Jim Crow

– Our parents experienced Jim Crow and segregation as children

– Our parents were the first generation to experience de jure integration

– We were the first generation to be born into an epidemic of HIV. We’ve never known days before it’s existence.

– Old enough to remember September 11th

– Old Enough to remember Hurricane Katrina and government response

– Witnessed the first African-American president elected

– Grew up during the Golden Age of BET

– Witnessed the decline and assimilation of Hip hop

– Witness to the War on Drugs

– Many of us grow up in Single Parent Households

– We witness the mass incarceration of African-Americans

– De facto segregation in schools and neighborhoods

– Grew up with interracial dating and marriage being legal

– Natural Hair begins to make a comeback

My Perspective on Black Generation Yers: 

Some of Black Generation Yers grew up in integrated or assimilated white environments, especially those in the middle class. We didn’t grow up with Jim Crow and we’ve never had to sit at the back of the bus.

Those of us who grew up in predominately white neighborhoods or schools tend to have identity problems. We have to re-educate ourselves upon entering the broader world about our identity.

(Read: Why Do All The Black Kids Sit Together) 

Those of us who grew up in Single Parent households have had our identities shaped by our upbringing. Some of us who grew up with single mothers will vow never to struggle alone, others will continue the single parent lifestyle with our own offspring.

– Many of us look to our elders for guidance, but the differences between their generation and ours are monumental.

– Unlike our predecessors, we never had to deal with “white only,” signs on the fountains and buses,  we didn’t have to fight in a segregated military like our grandparents and we missed the era of Malcolm X and Marvin Gaye.

-Some in our generation believe racism is a thing of the past, others believe racism exists in more subtle forms like stereotyping, racial profiling, the war on drugs and mass incarceration.

– Some of us wonder if de jure integration did more harm or good to the Black Community

The Culture of Black Generation Y: 

-Many of us grew up in the  late 1980s/ early 1990s, watching The Fresh Prince of Belair, The Cosbys, Moesha, Gullah Island and A Different World. We listened to the sounds of TLC, Notorious Big, Whitney Houston, Brandi, Destiny’s Child and we danced the Electric Slide and Tootsie Roll.

-Many of us remember the days when BET was Black-owned and represented African-Americans in a diverse way.

-Many of us witnessed the decline of BET, the end of the Golden Age and it’s sale to Viacom, a white-owned network.

-Many of us feel hip hop has declined in recent years.

– Many of us had typical Generation Y toys as children,  like tomagotchis, giga pets, furbies, tickle me elmo, Skip it, Supersoak and sketchers.

– We remember life before cellphones, but are first generation to make internet a part of life

– YouTube gives us platform to voice our frustrations and share information

– We remember Fubu and sketchers

– Interracial dating & Black love become hot topics on talk shows, radios and YouTube

– We see  Specials about Black women’s “singleness,”   on national television

Racial Outlook of Black Generation Y: 

– As children of the Baby Boomers, who were taught that integration was the future, many of middle class Blacks would be pushed into predominately white schools and suburban neighborhoods. We would be raised a world away from the Jim Crow stories of our Grandparents and the Black Power era of our Mothers and Fathers.

– We looked to Barack Obama as the first African-American president, but many of us feel the racial outlook for the country hasn’t changed much.

– Some of us grew up with gun violence ravaging our neighborhoods, while the government turned a blind eye and others of us wondered why we were the only Black kid in all of our classes.

– African-American of Generation Y are the most unemployed group in the country, like our white generation Y counterparts, we struggle to find employment in the recession, but we have the added obstacle of racism.


What will all this mean for our future generation, for our offspring?

source 1 

source 2

source 3

9 thoughts on “African-Americans of Generation Y”

  1. It means the same thing as the previous generation:

    The white man, woman and child are still in charge and are our oppressors. It means we must fight harder to gain freedom.

    It means their ways of oppression are just as deadly, but more hidden.


  2. Lol i feel old now even though im 19. I do remember watching the cosby show and seeing raven grow up.I remember bet being cool now its trash,i remeber watching 106 and park with tyga and julissa before it went down. I think this means we have more to go before we reach the promised land and can relax.Now we need to keep fighting and not forget all those who have sacrificed before us.We need to love ourselves and not buy into this post racial bs which is hard to see as being true especially when you live in the south.we need to see its the same in some areas as it was for previous generations but different as well,therefore we need to adapt to this. Older generation had to deal with racism and being seperated.We have to deal with colorism and not being fully accepted in an integrated society.I will never know the pain of the people before me,all i can do is be my best so that their sacrifices and pain aren’t in vain.


  3. Feeling very frustrated that I graduated with good grades amongst my classmates and yes I was the only black person on my course, sometimes I wonder if it is racial prejudice keeping me back from getting the job I want. I typed into google “is it hard to be a black women in the world” and your article came up and although it mainly references the American experience of growing up in generation Y, having grown up in Africa and The UK I can completely relate, “Those of us who grew up in predominately white neighborhoods or schools tend to have identity problems. We have to re-educate ourselves upon entering the broader world about our identity.” When I read that I was like yes yes yes, as thats the issue that I’m dealing with right now It seems to me as we climb further up into careers that were once closed to us the fewer the faces of colour become. sometimes it seems other black people find you too ‘uppity’ maybe because of your education or unconventional ‘black people’ interests like opera (or things that presumably only white people do) and so they disregard/ hate on you. Whilst at the same time as much as you may interact with other races and cultures, it feels as though you’ll never fully assimilate as subconsciously or consciously, white people will never really get where you coming from. And so it seems you’re just out there on your own wondering how do you breakthrough that glass ceiling, is it even worth it anyway if it means being alienated? Before this article I really hadnt come across this as a subject matter but I think it’s a matter that’s not regarded as an ‘issue’, it may even come across as frivolous and filed under ‘omg first world problems’. Like some people are crying to get to the top of the mountain and you saying you want to come down? what? girl please! sit your bouji ass down! Like how light skinned girls with ‘good hair’ talk about being bullied for it, a frivlous matter one could argue none the less it still deserves its platform for discussion. Just like you’ve done by mentioning it in this aricle. Really insightful reading thank you.


  4. @ Onai,

    You should read the book “Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome” by Joy Degruy Leary. She explains why black people love to accuse black folk that don’t coon of being uppity. You might hear, “Who she think she is, she think she too good”. This is so common that no black person that is attempting to do anything interesting with make it to the age of 30 without hearing that they are not black enough. Wear these criticisms like a badge of honor; they mean that you are not embarrassing your ancestors. Let me share this quote with you:

    “Women of color in america have grown up within a symphony of anger, at being silenced, at being unchosen, at knowing that when we survive, it is in spite of a world that takes for granted our lack of humanness, and which hates our very existence outside of its service. And I say symphony rather than cacophony because we have had to learn to orchestrate those furies so that they do not tear us apart. We have had to learn to move through them and use them for strength and force and insight within our daily lives. Those of us who did not learn this difficult lesson did not survive. And part of my anger is always libation for my fallen sisters.”
    – —Audre Lorde, “Uses of Anger”


  5. @ The Alchemist,

    Don’t know why it’s taken me so long to come back to this page, I’d forgotten what the url was. Glad I’ve found it. Thank you and @ Peanut for that comment, in future I will wear such criticisms like a badge of honour. I’ve always believed in not letting the haters stop me from doing my thang! :-p I’ve popped the J D Leary book in my amazon basket. good looking out.


  6. I like this article. I am 17 and I remember watching The Cosby Show, Different World etc while I was growing up. I loved listening to Hip Hop until recently when rappers like 2 Chainz, Shitty Minaj, Chief Keef came over and ruined Hip Hop for good. So I haven’t listened to Hip Hop in over a year. And I stopped watching BET when 106 & Park got rid of AJ and Free. So I haven’t looked at BET in years plus BET went down the drain since Whites took control of it.

    And with the bad economy and war debts AmeriKKKlan has to pay, I think my generation is doomed. And integration was the death of Black people and we should have never integrated with White AmeriKKKlan.


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