News about race in America these days is almost universally negative.
Longstanding wealth, income and employment gaps between whites and people of color are increasing, and tensions between police and minority communities around the country are on the rise.
But many claim there’s a glimmer of hope: The next generation of Americans, they say, is “post-racial”—more tolerant, and therefore more capable of easing these race-based inequities.
Unfortunately, closer examination of the data suggests that millennials aren’t racially tolerant, they’re racially apathetic: They simply ignore structural racism rather than try to fix it.
In 2010, a Pew Research report trumpeted that “the younger generation is more racially tolerant than their elders.” In the , Ted Gregory seized on this to declare millennials “the most tolerant generation in history.” These types of arguments typically cling to the fact that young people are more likely than their elders to favor interracial marriage.
When people are asked, for example, “How much needs to be done in order to achieve Martin Luther King’s dream of racial equality?
” the gap between white millennials and millennials of color (all those who don’t identify as white) are wide.
And once again, millennials are shown to be no more progressive than older generations: Among millennials, 42 percent of whites answer that “a lot” must be done to achieve racial equality, compared to 41 percent of white Gen Xers and 44 percent of white boomers.
The most significant change has been among nonwhite millennials, who are more racially optimistic than their parents.
(Fifty-four percent of nonwhite millennials say “a lot” must be done, compared with 60 percent of nonwhite Gen Xers.) And this racial optimism isn’t exactly warranted.