Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Millennial Entitlement: Meet Reality, Old People

I am so sick and tired of people calling my generation entitled.
You know what, I am entitled.
  • I don't think that people should be fired (or worse killed) because they aren't sufficiently subservient to power.
  • I do think that if you work hard, you should have enough money and stability to live comfortably.
Interviews with Border Patrol Agents - Chet Wilson and Jim Runyan
Interviews with Border Patrol Agents - Chet Wilson and Jim Runyan
These are not big things to feel entitled to: these are the foundations of the America that was preached to me for the 20 years I grew up. And who was preaching it to me? The same people who now what to call me entitled for believing their words about a meritocracy. These aren't new expectations:
For an America of vision that sees tomorrow's dreams in the learning and hard work we do today; (Reagan Presidential speach 1985)
I don't expect to be handed something for nothing. Like most young people, I simply think that hard work and honesty should be rewarded.
We can help teenagers, who have the highest unemployment rate, find summer jobs, so they can know the pride of work and have confidence in their futures. (Reagan Presidential speach 1985)
I did my unpaid summer internship, which even Reagan would have expected to be a paid job. I did this unpaid work after putting in the academic work+luck of getting into a premiere university. Even this  recognition was devalued as "affirmative action."
I've even given up the dream of home ownership after reading about the increasing price of homes in Cambridge, Boston, New York, Portland, D.C. and most major cities that could employ me. I mean, even Reagan thought that home ownership wasn't too far an opportunity to dream of, but I've taken the millennial hit and given it up.
It's time that all public housing residents have that opportunity of ownership. (Reagan Presidential speach 1985)
So what are the entitlements of my generation?
  1. Job
  2. Job
  3. Job that covers expenses
  4. Job
  5. Job stability???
IMG_2253Like, literally that it: Millennials want to be able to get a job after spending an average of $35,000 to get a college degree (WSJ blog). We'd like that job to pay for our basic expenses, an apartment shared with roommates, groceries with the occasional trip to a farmer's market, not even cable just Netflix.
Even adjusted for inflation, that’s still more than twice the amount borrowers had to pay back two decades earlier. [...] “It’s unfortunate that college costs are going up and the student aid, the grants, are not going up at the same rate on a per student basis,” Mr. Kantrowitz said. “College is becoming less and less affordable, though it’s still just as necessary.” (WSJ blog)
Here's the real kicker about being called entitled:
The person who is calling me entitled probably received their wealth, stability, and success because of the racist history of the building of suburbia and white wealth.
Wealth is not just about luxury. It plays a significant role in shaping a family's life chances and creating opportunities - in ways we often don't notice. [...]
Government housing programs and policies helped generate much of the wealth that so many white American families enjoy today. By lowering down payment requirements and extending the term of home loans from 5 to 30 years, revolutionary New Deal programs like the Federal Housing Administration made it possible for millions of average Americans to own a home for the first time.
But the government also set up a national neighborhood appraisal system that explicitly tied mortgage eligibility to race. Integrated and minority communities were ipso facto deemed a financial risk and made ineligible for low-cost home loans, a policy known today as "redlining." Between 1934 and 1962, the federal government backed $120 billion of home loans. More than 98% went to white homebuyers. (PBS - RACE the power of an illusion)
Conversely, the same person telling me, a foster care alumni and mulatto who has paid her own way through college, that I'm entitled since I expect a job once I graduate, is probably not voicing this same message to a white kid who's an Ivy league legacy with a stable family background that doesn't qualify for federal aid.
See, I know that every generation thinks that the next generation is full of deadbeats and utopianists.
Photo on 12-10-14 at 12.55 PM
But there's something particularly virulent about the discourse in the mainstream about Millennial entitlement.
I think that a lot of the bite of this discourse is that we are now talking about a large group of minority youth who feel emboldened to flex their due rights.
  • Black and Latin@ people expecting their slice of the American pie!
  • Young kids who speak languages, C++, Java, HTML, even chatspeak, along with the Spanish, Korean, Chinese, and more that older generations haven't bothered to learn!
  • Affluent white kids who have tattoos, gauges, piercings and who expect to be taken seriously despite having markers that older generations associate with poor minorities!
  • Black "entitlement" to life, due process, and a view of the American dream without the obscuring violence of the Confederate flag!
All of these entitlements challenge fundamental assumptions about who deserves what, who can claim an American identity and the rights that come with it.