A conversation between Gen Z and the ‘OG’ Baby Boomers needs to happen
By Jeff Taylor
Today’s Gen Z generation—those born from 1997 onwards—now represent the largest generational group in the United States at 90 million people, approximately 29% of the U.S. population. They outnumber Millennials by about four million and “OG” (Old Guy/Gal) Baby Boomers by 19 million.
Gen Z represents a unique group, comprising almost 40% minorities, which is the largest minority percentage of any previous generation. Their diversity has helped them bond more closely with, and to better understand, the systemic racial discrimination challenges suffered by African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, Native Americans and members of the LGBTQ communities.
Additionally, they have literally grown up with the internet, social media and smartphones, allowing them to disseminate their messages and causes domestically and worldwide. They have also witnessed and have been victims of the most mass shootings ever recorded in the U.S.; they started their lives under the threat of global terrorism with the attack on the World Trade Towers; and are now living with a global pandemic—cutting short their middle school, high school and college graduations and family celebrations. Their experiences have forced them to grow up fast, leading massive protests to affect change. In addition, they represent almost 40% of today’s consumers, wielding vast economic strength, while, ironically, living with enormous college debt and having bleak job opportunities.
In this current world of a global pandemic and multiple police shootings and racial injustice towards African Americans, they have unilaterally led and joined massive and vocal protests throughout every American city in support of the Black Lives Matter movement for racial justice, which opposes systemic racism and unbridled police brutality of African Americans.
However, there has been a huge communication gap between Gen Zers and Baby Boomers, (who have prospered in the economy), all the while witnessing and/or being victims of similar racial discrimination and police brutality. Baby Boomers can also remember decades ago when they led and joined the 1960s protests around the Vietnam War, women’s rights and civil rights, while witnessing the assassinations of JFK, RFK and Martin Luther King. You’d think both groups, having numerous shared experiences, would engage in a mutually beneficial and consistent dialogue with each other. However, this is not the case.
The lack of communication between the two generations has been oversimplified and often brushed off as the “Arrogance of Youth” versus “Out of Touch Old Folks.” Gen Zers will joke that OGs don’t know how to use social media or even smartphones (some truth to that). At the same time, OGs say Gen Zers often lack the patience and understanding to strategically affect political and economic change. The Baby Boomers’ similar experiences can contribute to their causes (some truth to that, too).
Clearly, both groups can learn from each other to create societal, political and policy change with more dialogue and by being less judgmental. Gen Zers have the energy, massive minority representation and sheer numbers to effect change. OGs can contribute their personal contacts with decision makers, politicians, and key influencers while using lessons of experience as guides for how to implement political strategy.
I strongly encourage both groups to reach out to each other in their common cause for change; that both generations identify key influencers in both groups to ask for and offer assistance; and that both groups work towards mutual respect, based on experiences and mutually beneficial contributions. This would be a start in bridging the communication gap between them and working together for change.
And, at the very least, OGs might better learn to operate their smartphones and use social media . . . and Gen Zers might gain valuable insight, contacts with key influencers, and even land a job to help them move out the houses of the OGs, who are providing a roof over their head and food on the table.
Or, as my mother always said, “Boy, I’ll slap you into yesterday if you don’t listen to me.”
— Jeff Taylor is a Senior Vice President for DeTv (Ch. 28 and www.detvch.com) and an “OG” Baby Boomer, who during his youth also lived and thought like a member of Gen Z.