Opinion pieces criticizing younger generations and questioning their motives are published with great regularity. As a millennial, my behavior is under great scrutiny – especially in the workplace and the media.
The Sacramento Bee recently featured one such piece, in which Cherri Senders questions how millennials can criticize income inequality while enthusiastically participating in the sharing economy. (“Millennials don’t put their money where their values are,” Viewpoints, Dec. 23).
Such a headline, however, could easily describe virtually any generation of Americans. Although I share Senders’ ethical concerns, I found her focus on millennials insultingly myopic.
She offers Airbnb as an example, citing its troubling effects on affordable housing in urban areas. She is not wrong but is ignoring our shared responsibility for the problem. In New York City, 44 percent of guest visits were to hosts with multiple properties. Most millennials don’t own multiple properties.
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In 2013, millennials famously graced the cover of Time magazine, which declared us the “Me Me Me Generation.” Some millennials were quick to point out similar pieces about previous generations. Indeed, the parallels between criticism of millennials and Generation X are uncanny.
In 1990, Time published a piece detailing several characteristics that baby boomers found perplexing about 20-somethings. They were disenchanted with luxury cars, struck with exotic wanderlust and skeptical of their economic opportunities. Sound familiar?
It is high time we realize that intergenerational finger-pointing is a tired and ineffective way of discussing important issues. When we make a monolith of demographic happenstance, we are preventing progress.
I cannot help but wonder if Senders’ piece would have been more relevant if it appealed to intergenerational concerns instead of framing the issue around millennials. If the “innovations” millennials praise are actually part of Wal-Mart corporate America that millennials despise, let’s begin with that shared premise – and not ostracize a generation.
Kyle Pate is a digital marketing professional in Sacramento. He can be contacted on Twitter @kylekpate.