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.
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?