The 2015 report by the Census Bureau estimated that by 2020 or so, "more than half of the nation's children were expected to be part of a minority race or ethnic group." Note the wording of that statement. It doesn't say that minorities are taking over, it says that more than half can be considered PART of a minority group. Its a nuance, but an important one. This is a trend that demographers had been predicting for many decades (see http://n.pr/1QQ30Mr for more detail), so it really comes as no surprise to anyone, except perhaps the most uneducated segments of the population, who live in kind of a bubble with little interaction with the rest of the world.
However, unlike the narrative of some right-wing commentators, its not as if white, European-Americans are being replaced by brown people. Instead, as part of the process of broader cultural assimilation, "white" Americans are combining with Hispanic-Americans, Asian-Americans, African-Americans, Native-Americans and others to create more mixed-race individuals. Indeed, people who identify as "two or more races" is projected to be the fastest-growing segment during the next 45 years. No longer can people be grouped into a single race, but several races. Census Bureau data validates this and has been reporting this since at least the 1970s.
Celebrities are perhaps the best exemplification of this. Trevor Noah, the host of American late-night comedy/commentary television program The Daily Show, who succeeded Jon Stewart, is originally from South Africa, but his mother is of mixed Xhosa and Jewish ancestry, while his father is white, of Swiss-German ethnicity. He jokes that he could have been considered criminal under South African apartheid. The point is that he is very much the face of America (in spite of being of South African origin) today.
There's also Michael Key and Jordan Peele (better known as Key & Peele, who wrapped up a successful TV comedy show on Comedy Central, although both appeared on MADtv before that, and more recently in a movie called Keanu). Like Trevor Noah, these comics defy the notion of being a single race, but are definitely the face of America. Only the most racist individuals seem to have much of a problem with it.
Millennials Did Not Pave The Way for U.S. Diversity
Despite the news stories about how wonderfully diverse Millennials are (at least according to Paul Taylor, whose interview appears a bit later in this post) who claims it was all Millennials who were the transitional generation to a majority-minority population, know that it was Gen X, and not Millennials, who really were the transition -- and I back my assertion with facts.
Perhaps not ironically, most articles about Millennial diversity are usually written by Millennials themselves. But the fact is that Gen Xers grew up with very high levels of immigration, without immigration there would be even fewer Gen Xers. Consider this: in 1945, just over 38,000 new legal permanent residents were created in the U.S.; in 1965 it was 323,000, and then half a million by 1976. Thus, Gen X was the first generation to learn in multicultural classrooms (approximately 22% of Gen X are immigrants), and as kids of every color, we all watched TV shows like "The Jeffersons" and "Diff'rent Strokes," and we later backpacked across Europe, Asia or Australia in unprecedented numbers. In fact, Gen X is the largest immigrant generation (not just in absolute numbers, but per capita) of any generation born in the 20th century. As a result, most Xers are fairly comfortable with diversity — which is a handy trait for surviving in a global village. This definitely isn't something new or unique to Millennials. Sorry to break it to any Millennials who have been taught to believe they're special, and set every trend.
Gen X Gave Also The U.S. Marriage Equality, Not Millennials
As we approach the anniversary for two discriminatory laws being found unconstitutional (both the key provision of Defense of Marriage Act [DOMA] being gutted as unconstitutional in 2013, and subsequently all gay marriage bans being overturned completely in 2015), as well as California Proposition 8 being overturned (actually, the Supreme Court let a lower-court ruling stand), reporters have done a lousy job of identifying exactly which group deserves credit these things.
Credit for marriage equality is being bestowed on a group that doesn't deserve it. Culture War veterans (victims?) really deserve credit, not people who only became adults recently (Millennials). On March 18, 2016, New Hampshire Public Radio ran a short news piece in its "Word of Mouth" segment entitled "Why Gen X Gets Ignored" which you can listen to below. They interview someone named Paul Taylor, the author of a book he's very obviously trying to sell called "The Next America: Boomers, Millennials, and the Looming Generational Showdown", which he wrote along with some former colleagues at Pew Research Center where he was formerly EVP.
Jim Obergefell Is a Gen Xer Born in 1967
Gen X's diversity extends beyond its ethnicity to gender roles and identity. It wasn't Millennials who made gay marriage in the U.S. the rule of law (nor did that suddenly happen with them), Gen X is entitled to most of the credit. Indeed, a 2015 Pew Research study showed that 59% of Gen Xers supported gay marriage (see http://bit.ly/1LjElY1), which was nevertheless, a clear majority.
Perhaps the most notable fact is that Jim Obergefell (the Supreme Court decision which legalized it nationwide bears his name) is a Gen Xer who was born in 1967. So are Jayne Rowse and April DeBoer (although one of them could be considered a Baby Boomer, as per the discussion in the paragraphs ahead), the couple from Michigan who, in an effort to protect their own family, successfully challenged that state's same-gender marriage ban in a trial that proved highly embarrassing for the State of Michigan and ultimately cost state taxpayers some $2 million. I don't need to research all the other plaintiffs in the consolidated trial, but a fair guess is that a bulk of them are Gen Xers due to no other reason other than basic demographics.
There were a great many factors that played a role, but we can safely say Gen X was behind most of it (indeed, Art Levine, an attorney and professor of ethics and legal studies at Cal State Long Beach who worked in the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice in the mid-1960s during the height of the Civil Rights movement says Gen X deserves much of the credit, see the article at http://ow.ly/10rQZd for more), including working for businesses who resented the fact that their HR departments suddenly had to keep 3 sets of employee records instead of just 2 for the married, unmarried and then a third for same-sex married (for states that permitted it) which created a huge new legal burden (and expense) for them that social conservatives never seem to mention.
That also explains why so many U.S. businesses just wanted the bans overturned, it was a very costly hassle for them to comply with. Longer-term, there was also a big societal cost for not allowing same-gender couples to marry because people who are not in state-sanctioned relationships tend to rely on more government services, rather than having a spouse who can help care for them as they get older, or vice versa.
Factors That Shaped The Gen X Perspective on Marriage
There's no denying that Gen X was partially shaped by growing up during the Reagan era, but its as important to note that the years that preceded the Reagan presidency were equally influential. One thing that's notable is that the Baby Boomer parents of Gen Xers had a bit of disdain for marriage (ironic, considering Baby Boomers were also the generation who claimed to be all about "family values" back in the 1990s, a claim most Gen Xers viewed very skeptically, since many of the lived through Boomer divorce).
Boomers' actions spoke volumes. During the 1970s, the U.S. divorce rate surged and was never higher (before or so far, after) in U.S. history. Gen Xers were more likely than any preceding generation to grow up with divorced parents. (The national divorce rate peaked in 1980, when most Xers were barely into their teens.) At the same time, New York magazine's Tom Wolfe called the 1970s when many Baby Boomers became adults and had Gen X kids "The 'Me' Decade" if that tells you anything (see the article at http://nymag.com/news/features/45938/ for more) about the environment for raising kids that Gen X kids grew up in. With their parents getting separated in droves, many Gen Xers felt the brunt of those separations, being latchkey kids who were left to pretty much fend for themselves. Take a look at the following chart which visually shows the experience Gen Xers grew up with (see also http://nyti.ms/1yEIuC8 for more):
That surge in divorce rates can be attributed to the Baby Boomer "me generation's" pursuit of their own self-interests rather than having families and sticking with them. Then, later, the number of working women grew rapidly, especially following the OPEC oil embargo which more than quadrupled the cost of oil and forced many more women into the workforce just to make financial ends meet. That meant that the Gen X childhood was perhaps most defined by its high likelihood to have divorced parents (meaning absentee parents), which meant many Gen Xers had a lack of parental supervision, which resulted in most Gen Xers developing a get-tough-or-die mentality.
Incidentally, if you presume that time has changed the Baby Boomer general indifference for the institution of marriage, you'd be wrong about that. Even today, as senior citizens, Boomers continue to divorce at unprecedented rates (see http://n.pr/1ZjzVtg for more background). This group's utter disdain for the institution of marriage played a HUGE role in Gen Xers' willingness to accept less conventional forms of marriage because frankly, many Gen Xers felt the brunt of divorce, with mothers of that era entering the workforce and leaving their children behind as latchkey kids who had to fend for themselves. The Gen X perspective was there was no reason not to permit others into the marriage "institution" because their parents largely helped to destroy it with divorce.
I take issue with Mr. Taylor on several important points, but there's only so much that can be addressed in an 8 minute news clip. As I noted, he was basically trying to promote his book. But I also acknowledge that at least some of what he claims is perhaps partially correct. I still found the clip interesting. Have a listen below, or by visiting http://tinyurl.com/GenXignored:
|Photo collage: Epoch Times Weekend|
Gen X is the generation who made gay marriage a reality. Thank their Baby Boomer (see below) parents' unprecedented divorce rates for shaping the Gen X perspective on marriage.
Paul Taylor's book makes no mention whatsoever about Gen X, as if the entire generation didn't even exist, leading me to question whether he was really the best party to interview (he does claim Gen X's modesty is a trait he finds "charming"). No matter. Note that Mr. Taylor is a Baby Boomer, a generation that is among the most self-absorbed in history (which he basically acknowledges in the interview) but in his book, he dismisses and ignores an entire generation. He makes a few valid points, but he also makes several critical mistakes/oversights in his dialogue, which I'll elaborate on a bit here. One of the more important points he glosses over is that several years ago, Pew Research correctly observed (see http://pewrsr.ch/1rOV2GI):
"Gen Xers have also gotten the short end of basic generational arithmetic. Due partly to their parents' relatively low fertility rates, there are fewer of them (65 million) than Boomers (77 million) or Millennials (an estimated 83 million assuming a roughly 20-year age span and including those who have yet to reach adulthood).
But there's another reason that Xers are a small generation: They've been deemed to span just 16 years, while most [other] generations are credited with lasting for about 20 years. How come? No one really knows. Generational boundaries are fuzzy, arbitrary and culture-driven. Once fixed by the mysterious forces of the zeitgeist, they tend to firm up over time.".
That sounds a lot like the type of lame excuse that a self-absorbed, narcissistic Baby Boomer might give for screwing Gen Xers out of some 20 million more people than they are otherwise entitled to.
In fact, Gen X is the group behind several of the key trends Mr. Taylor specifically tries to attribute to Millennials, most of whom weren't old enough to actually do what he credits Millennials with.
Why Gen X Is Bigger Than Its Numbers Imply
As already noted, Mr. Taylor’s former employer, Pew Research, already acknowledged that Gen X was screwed out of approximately 4 years, which accounts for perhaps 20 million additional people. Based on that, one could argue that Gen X is likely much bigger than its numbers suggest. That's no small oversight, yet all he says is that generational definitions are "contrivances" even while his books relies on those very contrivances for its central thesis. Not a good start, Paul.
|Photo: Leif Parsons.|
Many Millennials mistakenly believe they made gay marriage happen. They didn't, although they helped.
Mr. Taylor proceeds to perpetuate the "artificial constructs" in his dialogue about Baby Boomers and Millennials. While its true that Gen X grew up during the Reagan years, his statement that Gen Xers are much more politically conservative is false, and he backs his assertion up with nothing. When it comes to social and political views, the reality is that liberal Millennials didn't just come from nowhere. Gen Xers were already leaning that way at least on social issues, breaking away from the more button-down Baby Boomers. The vast majority of credible surveys show that Gen X is very evenly split between Democrats, Republicans and Independent voters with about one-third for each group. A more accurate statement might be that Gen X grew up in the aftermath of Reagan, they also helped to elect Bill Clinton into office, proceeded to help get him reelected in spite of a conservative effort to make hay out of the Monica Lewinski scandal (who was a Gen Xer herself), and they were also partially responsible for putting Barack Obama into office (the media love to claim it was all Millennials responsible for that, but fact is that there simply were not enough Millennials who were of voting age when Obama ran the first time to have elected him into office, something he also conveniently fails to mention).
Beyond that is the reality of the world Gen X grew up in. Frankly, its a mixed story.
Gen Xers' parents left the cities in droves as part of the so-called "white flight" to the suburbs which started in the 1960s. But at the same time, music was telling a different story. Gen X learned new forms of musical expression like punk rock (including imports such as the Sex Pistols, which was really fighting the UK establishment) which showed us that yet again, music can play an important role in broader societal changes. But Xer's musical expression isn't limited to just a quartet of white boys from Liverpool shaking things up, Gen X's musical platform was/is global in nature.
Consider the example of soul music. While Baby Boomers viewed soul music through the lens of struggle, with voices like Aretha Franklin being a key part of that, Gen X grew up with singers like Roberta Flack. The difference is where that music originated; rather than struggle of the old south, it was striving in the new south (Roberta was raised in Arlington, Virginia which is an affluent Washington DC suburb), and while Virginia was still segregated until the 1960s, the population was definitely middle-class and decidedly more affluent, living the "American Dream".
At the same time, it was also Gen X who developed hip hop music, something very much rooted in the struggle of African Americans, but a brand new type of voice to express the issue of an entire generation of young, black men (and some women). Both are equally valid forms of expression, but the point is that Gen X witnessed both forms aspirational soul and hip hop musical expression, and others including punk rock, as well as a new form of global rock that their parents helped to start, it was incredibly diverse with voices from all over the globe.
Gen X kids also grew up receiving mixed messages about gender/sexual orientation. On one side was a major push for gay kids to come out that legitimate politicians like Harvey Milk were helping to encourage (and it largely succeeded). On the other side was an effort to keep LGBT people in the closet, fueled by religious conservatives like James Dobson. Dobson co-founded the Family Research Council, a militant right-wing Christian lobbying group focused on criminalizing all aspects of homosexuality. For its stream of inflammatory propaganda, laced with bogus anti-gay scare stories, the Family Research Council earned its place on the Southern Poverty Law Center's list of hate groups in 2010, alongside the Klu Klux Klan and the White Aryan Nation.
Hence, many of the adults of today grew up in a time when hurling homophobic slurs on the playing fields wasn't just widely tolerated — it was in many cases encouraged. Gen X was left to figure things out for itself.
Another Influence Behind Gen X: "The Pill"
Divorce wasn't the only reason Gen X was smaller than the Baby Boom, lower fertility rates spurred by the advent of "the pill" also played a big role.
The FDA first approved the pill (as in the female birth control pill) for contraceptive use in 1960. By 1962, the pill had become a really big hit for the pharmaceutical industry, and by 1964, an estimated 1.2 million American women were on the pill; three years later, the number had nearly doubled to 2.3 million. Still, at that time, the pill was still considered by some to be "controversial" and it remained illegal in 8 U.S. states. The Catholic church also declared its use unholy.
None of that stopped American Baby Boomer women from using the pill en masse, and by the mid-1960s, the U.S. fertility rate had plunged significantly in spite of a huge surge of women who were then at child-bearing age.
|Baby Boomer disdain toward|
marriage is responsible
for the societal changes
behind gay marriage.
In case you haven't guessed it by now, I'm neither a Baby Boomer nor a Millennial but a Generation Xer, and true to form, I'm actually happy about that. I'm middle-aged, but have absolutely no desire to be in my twenties again and struggling to pay my rent. Not by a long shot. Now, I can realistically look forward to a retirement which is no longer decades away but only a few more years away. I'm also not like the Baby Boomer stereotype of the middle-aged Boomer men who bought expensive sports cars and tried to pick up women half their age to maintain their fast-fading youth. That's how many Boomers dealt with middle-age, not most of the Gen Xers I know, and I know a great deal more Gen Xers than any Baby Boomers do.
No mid-life crisis for me, plus I've been a very good saver (my 401k was a real blessing from a tax standpoint, so I put a great deal into that), so I don't really fear living my golden years in dire poverty as many spendthrift Baby Boomers and even some Gen Xers are/were. Yet most Baby Boomers and Millennials have no clue (or even any interest) in knowing that an entire generation between them even exists, but news flash: it does. We're known as Generation X (better known as Gen X). One thing that defines Gen X is its relatively small size compared to the two groups ahead and behind us. That means Gen Xers are bookended by two much bigger generations – the Baby Boomers ahead and the Millennials behind us – and both groups are pretty different from one another, except perhaps they both seem to share the notion that they are the only demographic segment that matters.
More on Gen X's Size and the Baby Boomer View of Other Generations
As noted, a big reason for Gen X's smaller size is because there's no consensus on when Generation X actually starts or ends. (One could say that's because the narcissistic Baby Boomers ahead of Gen X thought they were so fucking great that their generation simply never ended.) As a matter of fact, Gen X has been pegged as starting anywhere from 1961 to 1966, and it's been capped off anywhere between 1977 and 1985. Probably the most popular range is between 1965-1980 (Pew Research, the Department of Defense, and the Urban Dictionary, and others define it that way).
Baby Boomers initially called Gen X "Baby Busters" (they also called Millennials "Boomer Babies" even though some of them were clearly Gen Xers' babies, if that tells you anything), but as a generation, Gen Xers rejected being branded as something that sounded like Baby Boomers Chapter 2, so we adopted the name Gen X. I won't get into exactly how that name came to be (Google it if you're so inclined), but suffice to say, it's a unique name and it belongs to us. Fortunately, Millennials rejected the Boomer Babies AND Gen Y labels for a pretty decent generational name, although some younger Millennials are trying to claim themselves as a unique generation now even if they’re squarely in the same 20-year range as other Millennials are). Good luck with that, I'll likely be close to death by the time it has any personal relevance to me, so I don't really care.
|A July 15, 2016 Wall Street Journal article featured this graphic|
which I include now because it visually depicts the fuzzy boundaries between generations.
Gen X Contribution: Coming Out, From Scandals to Yawns
Also don't discount the fact that Gen X celebrities including Anderson Cooper, Jodi Foster, Matt Bomer, Jim Parsons, Lance Bass, Sara Gilbert, Ricky Martin and Cynthia Nixon are also all gay (Apple CEO Tim Cook could be a Boomer according to one definition, but as I've already noted, because he's at the tail end of the Baby Boom, he could also be considered a Gen Xer if he really wanted). It's no accident, rather it’s a huge contribution, that Gen X made to the larger cause of gay rights in the U.S. What makes each of these particular individuals unique from a historical perspective is that ALL of them came out in very matter-of-fact ways. Instead of horrible, career-ruining scandals that were splashed on the front pages of newspapers or magazines as was often the case as recently as a generation earlier, these were very open secrets that just were, but they were hardly scandalous and were treated with more of a yawn when they ultimately went public.
That's a very typically Gen X way of doing things, and the understatement of one's personal, sexual orientation definitely helped Millennials and others to finally start treating sexual orientation as less of a news headline and more of the entirely personal matter that it really is, hence understated "coming out" stories are also quite Gen X. True, there are still occasional fights about a same-gender couple trying to attend a prom together in some conservative locations, but the downplaying of one's sexual orientation from everyone's right to know to a more "that's my business, and I'll tell the public only if and when I want to" is a pattern that's likely continue going forward. What someone does in the privacy of their own bedroom is no one else's business but their own, unless there are laws that provide rights only if you're married to someone of the opposite gender. Our government cannot pick and choose which relationships it's going to allow to exist or sanction, they all have to be treated the same way. At the same time, Gen X recognizes these aren't "special rights" as anti-gay activists tried to depict them, rather they are rights that ALL Americans are entitled to by law.
Silent Generation Was Not Silent: Their Contribution to Gay Rights Is Immeasurable
Note that Edie Windsor, the woman whose legal challenge for more than a half-million dollar inheritance tax bill from her legal spouse (another woman) successfully gutted the so-called "Defense of Marriage Act" (better known as DOMA) in 2013 was neither a Gen Xer or Baby Boomer, but a member of The Silent Generation which preceded the Baby Boom generation.
The Silent Generation was anything but silent on gay rights, as it produced such memorable gay rights leaders like Franklin Kameny, Barbara Gittings, Jack Nichols, Harry Hay, Rudi Gernreich, Del Martin, Phyllis Lyon, Randolfe Wicker as well some of folks behind the original Stonewall riots (including the late Marsha P. Johnson and the late Sylvia Rivera), and similar protests preceding it in Philadelphia, Washington DC, San Francisco and Los Angeles -- think of events like the Dewey's restaurant sit-in, the Cooper's Donuts fight, the Black Cat uprising and Compton’s Cafeteria riot as prominent examples of events that all preceded Stonewall.
Most importantly, until 1973, psychiatrists generally classified sexual orientation toward members of one's own gender to be disordered (note that The American Psychiatric Association had only listed homosexuality as a "sociopathic personality disturbance" since 1952). Yet there was little if any peer-reviewed science behind this classification, rather it was based on old Freudian theories, only few scientists ever questioned that; at least not until 1970. In 1970, activists like Dr. Franklin Kameny started to legitimately question the actual science behind the disordered classification, and the hollow truth was revealed: there was no legitimate reason for labeling an entire group of people as mentally ill, hence the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality off its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in 1973. The American Counseling Association, the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, the American Medical Association, the American School Counselor Association, the American School Health Association and the American Psychoanalytic Association all reached the same conclusion in the years that followed.
While a few homophobic members resented the challenge, and founded groups that continued to consider them disordered (many would support pseudo-science to support that perspective until the 1990s. For example, in 1992, the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality [NARTH] was started by Charles Socarides [whose own son Richard is gay], Joseph Nicolosi and Benjamin Kaufman, which the Southern Poverty Law Center concluded had become the main source for anti-gay 'junk science', see http://bit.ly/2cetHuI for more detail), the reality is that without valid, peer-reviewed research, that perspective became increasingly fringe.
Those truths would also become revealed in the California Proposition 8 trials which followed years later, and the baseless "science" which supported those viewpoints would increasingly be viewed as little more than animus which motivated gay marriage bans in the first place.
Use of "Culture Wars" and "Dog Whistles" To Motivate Conservative Voters
In the 1990s, DOMA was only enacted once conservative politicians in power sought to motivate conservative voters to re-elect Republican candidates by using so-called "dog whistles" (called that because they are supposedly silent except to those who can hear such coded messages) like gay marriage (described as "family values" or other euphemisms) in an effort to deflect attention from the fact that their economic policies were actually decimating the GOP's white, working class base.
As UC Berkeley professor Robert Reich has correctly observed, the modern GOP is based on an unlikely coalition of wealthy business executives, small business owners, and struggling [working class] whites. Its durability depends on the latter two categories believing that the economic stresses they've experienced for decades have a lot to do with the government taking their money and giving it to the poor, who are disproportionately black and Latino.
The real reason small business owners and struggling whites haven't done better is the same most of the rest of America hasn't done better: while the output of Americans has continued to rise, almost all of the gains have gone to the very top. That's a function of Government policy.
Conservative "Coalition" Fragmentation
The GOP's base of white, working class voters may have the last laugh, since they seem to have abandoned the conservative Republican party establishment in 2016 by voting for Donald J. Trump, a news-invented candidacy that now threatens to destroy the establishment Republican party.
Gen X and Gay Rights
To be sure, Gen X didn't start gay rights, but Gen X did help take them to where they were in 2016. Gen Xers were the ones to help push for gay marriage rights nationwide, and to openly serve in the military and live and raise families in the open, NOT Millennials. Gen Xers were of an age most likely to benefit from these things immediately, although future generations will no doubt benefit. It's simply impossible to discount the Gen Xers on this matter. So no, Paul Taylor, you may credit them in your book for ushering gay marriage, but Millennials did not make that stuff happen. Millennials were a useful contributing factor, but they were not the reason or even the impetus for making gay marriage a reality, Gen X deserves most of the credit.
Millennials too often receive (and they willingly take) credit for gay marriage rights, and they often seem to bask in the credit as if they're the demographic group singularly responsible for this development, thanks to misinformation from people like Paul Taylor. Gen X deserves much more of the credit given that they were on the front lines of this culture war battle while Millennials were still kids in grade school.
Sexual diversity is and always has been a fact of life for Gen X. While Baby Boomers were the original instigators of the Sexual Revolution, Gen Xers were its primary beneficiaries, coming of age in an era of increasing awareness of LGBT issues, women's issues, etc. While most Xers are too young to remember the 1969 Stonewall Riots that gave birth to the original gay rights movement, they grew up amid the rancorous national "debate" about gays' actual right to exist which was fought between supporters of gay rights and socially conservative, but politically-motivated religious groups including the Moral Majority and then-popular, political figures including Anita Bryant, Jerry Falwell, and Senator Jesse Helms to name a few. But conservatives' hypocrisy is really what solidified a willingness to abandon those cultural mores.
The fact is that Millennials don't get to claim credit for all this stuff (at least until the last Gen Xer has died), and by then, I'm guessing Millennials won't really care.