Why are Millennials More Racist?

Much has been made of this report into the attitudes of millenials on a wide variety of social issues, and it seems to have been coming up again lately. In particular one singular aspect of the survey has been picked up and that is related to race relations. Perhaps this has come from Obama’s Brother’s Keeper initiative or in reaction to the recent Stand Your Ground issues and their relation to race. Whatever the reason, this 2012 survey and report is being much quoted again.

Overall, 46 percent of Millennials agree that the government pays too much attention to the problems of minorities, with 49 percent who disagree. 48 percent also agree that discrimination against whites is a genuine problem. When you disaggregate by race and count only white Millennials, the picture is much worse.

A solid majority of white Millennials, 56 percent, say that government has paid too much attention to the problems of blacks and other minorities. An even larger majority, 58 percent, say that “discrimination against whites has become as big a problem as discrimination against blacks and other minorities.”

Screenshot from 2014-03-01 14:09:45

Given that millenials are notably more progressive on pretty much any issue you care to name, this appears to stand out as an anomaly. Why should millennials attitudes on race be regressive compared to everything else? The survey doesn’t try to figure out why and no commentator that I’ve read as of yet really tries to ask why this should be either. Minority commentators look at it with a sense of disbelief and point to various issues that stand in opposition to the – apparent – millennial view but little or no attempt has been made to understand it, just to express outrage.

I have a few ideas on why this might be and I don’t think it is a blip, I think it is a continuation of the progressive theme. Here’s why:

  1. Millennials have, apparently, been brought up to see people as people and not to discriminate on these kinds of bases. Positive discrimination or what appears to be unfair division of funds and assistance offends this sensibility and appears racist. Indeed it may well be.
  2. The economic situation during the Great Depression has lessened or wiped out a lot of the financial/living standards divide between blacks and whites which has previously much more strongly correlated to race for various reasons rooted in history and right wing ‘neo-liberal’ economic policy. The playing field has been greatly levelled and now that more people are at the bottom of the pyramid they’re fighting for scraps and see less reason to target that by race. There’s some legitimacy to this point of view and it is one played up to by the right wing internationally, dividing ‘skivers and strivers’ in the UK, for example, or demonising immigrants.
  3. The public conversations around political and economic issues have become tiresomely radicalised with the tea party on one hand and the counter-culture response to that on the other ‘a pox on both your houses’ seems like a reasonable response and one that may hold out some hope for a more reasonable future.

I just don’t think this is – or will turn out to be – a regressive step.

5 responses to “Why are Millennials More Racist?

  1. Actually, they aren’t more racist, they’re just recognizing that there has been racism going around for a very long time, especially on the liberal side. Lots of self-identified liberals pretend that blacks cannot be racist but clearly, by any credible definition, they are and have been against whites for many, many years. If we’re going to have a color-blind society, we have to do away with anything that benefits anyone based on their skin color, that means affirmative action has to go, all race-based scholarships have to go, the black TV networks and the Black History months, etc. all have to go away. They are, by definition, racist. Funny, it’s not the self-identified liberals and the blacks who are fighting for that one, is it?

    In fact, I’m seeing a whole lot of people who are not the same kind of liberals as their predecessors. One might even think they’re conservative.

    • I think there is, or was, a place for some affirmative action in the past but it clearly hasn’t addressed the genuine, structural inequalities that exist. Because they’re not really about race, but about wealth disparity and the failure of successive neo-liberal economic theories and practices to address the distribution of wealth and opportunity.

      • I don’t think there really are any disparities, at least not systemic ones. Given two people, one black and one white, both of whom are willing to put in the same amount of work for their entire lives, both of whom get the same education, make the same life choices and pursue the same career track, both will get to the same general level. They both have the same opportunities. Liberals, on the other hand, want equality of outcome, regardless of the starting point and regardless of the decisions made along the way. They want a ghetto black man who never got an education, made horrible decisions throughout their lives, went to prison, has no work experience to end up in the same place as a middle-class white man who did everything right.

        The opportunity is there, I don’t think liberals have a realistic expectation.

      • I am ‘liberal’, though far more so than most USians think of with the term. All other things being equal yes, you would expect similar outcomes. However society is stratified along wealth lines and these are not fluid. Poverty creates traps and that has perpetuated what at least appears to be – on the surface – racial inequality. It’s more about wealth and opportunity and at least from my anarcho-socialist point of view the long, historical philosophy of the left is about equality in outcomes.

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