“As children of the multi-cultural 1980s and 90s, Millennials are fluent in colorblindness and diversity, while remaining illiterate in the language of anti-racism. This may not be the end of the world, if weren’t for the fact that Millennials don’t know the difference between the two.To be fair, that’s not entirely their fault. They were taught by their elders, Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers, about how to think about race and racism. The lessons Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers gleaned from the Civil Rights era is that racism is matter of personal bigotry — racists hate people because of the color of their skin, or because they believe stereotypes about groups of people they’ve never met — not one of institutional discrimination and exploitation. The history Millennials have been taught is through that lens, with a specific focus on misunderstanding the message of Martin Luther King, Jr. Certainly, a world where we all loved one another would be ideal, where each person is seen as equal, where “the dream” of children of all different racial backgrounds holding hands with one another without prejudice is a reality. But Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers generally decided to ignore King’s diagnosis of the problem — white supremacy — and opted to make him a poster-child for a colorblind society, in which we simply ignore construct of race altogether and pray that it will disappear on its own.” ~ MYCHAL DENZEL SMITH
– I’m going to go out on a limb and say that it isn’t just White Millennials who are products of a failed system, but increasingly Millenials of Color as well. I need only point at Pharrel Williams and Raven Symone’s recent commentary and teh entire “New Black” movement that emerged out of Pharrel’s comments.
I’m not saying that the system failed millennials of color and white millennials in the same way: colorblindness on behalf of white millennials leads to the perpetuation of systemic injustice, while colorblindness on the part of millennials of color impedes their awareness of the systemic issues that they face in the world, both of which have particularly lethal consequences for the people of color involved.
To position my experience,in teaching African-American women’s thought last semester, I encountered a variety of colorblind sentiments from my students. I was prepared for that, especially from my white students who, if they haven’t internalized racism, have been taught to see everyone as human, where human is equivalent to whiteness. I was not prepared for colorblind defenses to be articulated by my students of color who, at the very least, I would have expected to be aware of the failure of such an approach.
Instead, I received initial comments like “why is this an issue, we’re all human,” or “race doesn’t matter” from students of color. Now, the position that they were making these comments from was different than their white counterparts, but the systemic structures, the education processes that they’d gone through were similar. Further, I was often struck by the way in which some of my students of color could hold the colorblind ideology while still acknowledging systemic violence. Often enough, they wrote the people who were engaging in racism off as bad apples enabled by a flawed system, as opposed to products of that system.
More damningly, the language used by some of my students of color confirmed the assertion made in the article above, that they cannot tell the difference between diversity and colorblindness. In explaining their positions, most of these students relied upon the language of tolerance (which does not compel engagement with others) to explain multi-culturalism. In doing so, they sought to remove “race” and replace it with “culture,” thereby declaring that “race wasn’t an issue.” To this end, these students of color had taken up King Jr.’s message, but, like their white counterparts, did not fully diagnose white supremacy as a systemic issue as opposed to a personal one.
I should note that many of them changed their tunes (somewhat) following Michael Brown’s shooting and the subsequent protests, though many still clung to the argument that the person was racist, not the system, and continued to maintain their colorblind ideological position.
I guess the long and short of this is that it is not just white millennials who were failed by multi-culturalism, millenials of color were also failed by it as well, though with different results. (Source: Angry Asian Girls United)