How Millennials Cope With Discrimination


From Rock the Vote to Teen Mom, MTV has a long-standing tradition of speaking straight to their audience through campaigns and shows that other networks either do not have the audience or the open-minded advertisers for. MTV can talk to the nation’s teens in a way that Bravo or AMC cannot. For instance, for several years, MTV has been compiling research data for a public affairs campaign called Look Different. The music channel’s efforts are aimed at helping millennials cope with the discrimination and prejudice that they experience in their lives. MTV hired professional pollsters to pluck a representative sample from the nation for a survey. The exact purpose of the survey was to discover how 14-24 year old people experience, are affected by and respond to issues regarding bias.

The general perspective of millennials is quite different from those of previous generations. This group is more diverse as well as more tolerant. They approach fairness and equality with an earnest sense of commitment. However, there seems to be a little confusion as to what racism actually is. The millennials have chosen to be colorblind, which in turn has caused a certain discomfort with issues of race. They seem unwilling to make efforts to reduce the inequalities that are drawn along racial lines.

The results of the survey support the above speculations. 91 percent believe in equality as a value. Also, 84 percent claim that they were taught this belief by their families. 89 percent believe that all people should be treated equally. Interestingly, only 37 percent said that they grew up in homes that talked about race issues. That number was made up of 46 percent of the minorities and 30 percent of the white millennials surveyed.

That last result may be what has led most millennials to believe that their generation is “post-racial.” Other findings include, 72 percent believing that millennials are more likely to believe in equality than are older people and 58 percent believing that when they grow older, issues of racism will decrease. 62 percent believe that electing an African-American for president proves that the minorities in this country have the same opportunities as do whites. 67 percent believe that having a black president proves that race is no longer a “barrier to accomplishments.”

Most millennials say that colorblindness is a sort of cure for racism. 68 percent said that when society focuses on race, it is a preventative from becoming colorblind. A majority of millennials are opponents of affirmative action. 88 percent believe that preferences based on race are unfair. 70 percent continue to believe that even when historical examples of inequalities are considered.

What is interesting is that despite their heartfelt feelings about equality, millennials have a hard time coping with talking about issues of discrimination. 73 percent believe that people should talk about bias in a more open fashion, but only 20 percent say that they are comfortable doing this. This may be problematic for them in the future, particularly since so many of them claim that their racial identities contribute to their world views.

Despite this group’s overall beliefs that equality has overcome the past and tolerance is the way to proceed, white and minority millennials hold differing views regarding the current status of minorities and whites. 65 percent of minority millennials believe that white people get more opportunities. 41 percent of white millennials believe that the federal government focuses too much attention on the problems minority groups face.

Almost half of the white millennials surveyed feel that whites are discriminated against just as much as racial minorities are. In a poll taken in 2012 by the Public Religion Research Institute, that number was a whopping 58 percent. Those polled said that white discrimination is just as much of a problem as is racial discrimination.

That is significant, but also puzzling. Only 10 percent surveyed said that they had felt excluded at one time or another because they were white, while 25 percent said that they had been personally hurt by racial offenses.

While it is encouraging to find that so many young people are against racism and want to live in a world that treats everyone equally, their insistence on ignoring the ongoing issues by claiming colorblindness could potentially lead to greater racial strife for the nation. Their confusion could simply be a symptom of their youth. However, the messages they have received from the grown ups in their lives have been muddled and often contradict themselves.

The oldest of the millennials were born into the “teach tolerance” movement. From the time they were kindergartners they were taught to not only be tolerant of others, but to be colorblind. They were indoctrinated into the very beliefs that they shared for this survey organized by MTV. However, in a survey that was done as then candidate Senator Barack Obama was opening his campaign in 2008, 3 in 10 people polled admitted to having feelings of racial bias. In that same poll, nearly half surveyed said that they thought race relations were not healthy in the country.

No wonder the millennials are confused. Perhaps the foundations they have been building on, in the future, once they have matured and experienced some more of what life has to offer, will pay off. The way millennials cope with discrimination may be what the nation has been missing all along.

Opinion by Stacy Lamy