In the United States, different social groups have different perspectives of the nation’s history. Race, gender, or sexual orientation largely determine one’s view of history. Marginalized social groups remember the horrors of the past and the murdered ancestors. On the contrary, when people of dominant social groups look at history, they see the successes, and thus they want to “make America’ great’ again.” The vast differences between minority and dominant social groups’ perspectives of history help explain a lack of older generations’ progressiveness. Additionally, this also explains why America’s youth is increasingly progressive.
Considering that 76.3% of the United States population is white, the trends in the nation are influenced the most by the white community. Additionally, at least 80% of Black people already identify as Democrat — and 29% identify as liberal. So, as you read about how America’s youth is increasingly progressive, it is rightful to assume that the white community’s perspective is most prominently changing.
The Silent Generation, Boomers, and the Gen X’s are the oldest generations still alive. The people who comprise these generations were alive to see the past 100 years or so. The things that younger generations look at as “history” are just the past moments for the older generations. They remember times when society was even more opportune and beneficial for white people than marginalized groups. A majority of the dominant groups’ members don’t think of the horrible history our country has, and so, therefore, the country was never anything but great for them.
The other side of the society, however, sees a not-so-great American history. Older members of disenfranchised social groups personally, or through stories, remember segregation, Jim Crow, and the KKK. From this perspective, the United States has never been great. Indigenous American, Hispanic, and Latinx people share this not-so-great perspective of American history. For the Indigenous Americans, it’s the mass genocide of ancestral tribes and hundreds of other horrors. It is the enslavement, murder, and eviction from their land along the southern United States border Hispanic and Latinx people.
Younger generations, such as Millennials Gen Z, are more progressive than their older counterparts. According to research by the Pew Research Center, the views of voters throughout the different generations have become increasingly progressive over time. In 2018, the Pew Research Center reported percentages on generations’ approval of Donald Trump. The numbers were as follows, 54% of the Silent Generation, 43% of Baby Boomers, 38% of Gen X, 29% of Millennials, and 30% of Gen Z. Overall, we can see a downward trend on average of 6% per generation. Despite an overall downward trend, Gen Z rose 1% from the previous Millenial generation. However, it’s important to note that Gen Z has the least number of eligible voters, which means significantly less of a sample size. That aside, since older generations experienced a different era of the United States, their perspective is different.
The younger white population in America doesn’t remember when it was socially encouraged and accepted to overtly abuse people by the color of their skin, their orientation of sexuality, or any other identifying factors. Don’t confuse this with the eradication of racism or other prejudices. While the United States has mostly shifted away from blatant abuse of minority social groups, that does not mean that discrimination doesn’t exist through more inconspicuous forms. However, as I said, the younger white generation grew up in a seemingly more accepting society. So they are more likely to interact with a more diverse group of people and be more empathetic towards minority social groups.
As the less empathetic generations pass on, the newer generations will only become more and more progressive. I like to think about how my generation’s — Gen Z — kids will look at us and our parents as much more conservative than their views.
We can see proof of younger generations becoming increasingly progressive in upcoming political leaders. Older generations think of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as too far left. However, ask anyone just out of college or younger, and they’ll most likely know AOC, and tell you how much they like her. She may have incredibly out-there ideas, but that’s what we, the United States, need. Because everything was impossible ‘til someone did it.