“Our lives begin to end when we become silent about things that matter.” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
January 20th for many in the States is a day of sleeping in, catching that movie on the “must see list,” and spending about 30 minutes thinking of the momentous impact of the life Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Although this is a testament to how far the U.S. has come from the painful pre-Civil Rights Movement, it also illustrates how well the mainstream has been able to downplay the conversation about race in the States and making it seem that we have become a “post-racial” society; especially when it comes to discussing the Millennial generation.
With the continuing existence of “yolo” culture, living a life of excess is not only presented as desirable, but attainable. With an 11.1% unemployment rate of 20-24 year olds, recent college grads are left in this drastic gap between the new American dream and reality. Most T.V. shows, movies, and music focus exclusively on the experience of the upper to upper middle class white demographic (a la Real Housewives or the Kardashians) or objectify the honest struggles of lower middle to lower class Americans (a la Teen Mom). With such an overload of superficial mainstream media, where is the space for showing a bit of the honest American experience, peppered with some people who are the new face of the United States?
By masking the reality of the life of the minority in the United States, we are burying the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In reality, he was just a member of a thousand person, decades long movement. However, his ability to move all kinds people to action created the catalyst the movement needed to end segregation and ultimately move the United States to a more equal society.
But what does this have to do with today’s conversation about race? Today, prejudice has evolved from violent crimes to more subtle exclusions from jobs, social gatherings, and justice. Just look to the reaction towards the recent verdict of the Trayvon Martin case to understand how deep are the wounds of modern racism in the United States. But much like every other major news story, it has faded away something that would surely disappoint Dr. King.
What is encouraging is the openness in which the Millennial generation approaches the discussion of race and diversity in the United States. Even though it doesn’t immediately change policy, talking about what it means to be a minority has the potential to change a mind at a time. Better representation in the media is slowly providing stronger role models to help frame the aspirations of younger generations. Change is painfully slow and requires constant attention or else we risk repeating our history.