Yes, we’re having that conversation. As wild as this may sound there are actual sentient human beings who believe this. It would benefit all of us to address this now before bad faith actors in the future get courageous. Enter Bob Lansberry, a conservative talk-show radio host based out of Syracuse, NY. The 60-year-old tweeted that “‘Boomer’ is the n-word of ageism.” It received overwhelming backlash and got so ridiculous that Dictionary.com got involved. “Boomer is an informal noun referring to a person born during a baby boom, especially one born in the U.S. between 1946 and 1965. The n-word is one of the most offensive words in the English language,” it wrote through its Twitter account. Lonsberry later deleted the tweet.
The idea of making such a comparison is disrespectful to the several generations of black people in the U.S. who for centuries have dealt with societal and systemic racism. To be fair, ageism in our society is a legit problem given how we treat our elders. It seems to be in the West that elders don’t play much of a role in our society. When they aren’t useful to us we’re so quick to put them in a nursing home. Culturally speaking, the East is much better in this aspect. Elders in African and Asian cultures are seen as Yoda-like figures that coach the next generation as they grow up. In that respect, ageism shouldn’t be taken lightly. However, I doubt people would vote for a guy whose platform is executing every American 40 and older. Then again, maybe I’m being too optimistic.
Last month Taylor Lorenz wrote a great article for the New York Times on the “OK, Boomer” meme, a piece that delves into the issues and sentiments that the meme underpins. In short, the meme is a response to middle-aged people who scold and talk down to younger people for things outside of our control. Hundreds of articles are published with headlines like “Why aren’t Millennials getting Married?” “Why Millennials are Killing the Real Estate Industry,” and more.
Younger generations and especially Millennials are seen as not self-reliant, brittle, immature, always on their phones, undisciplined, and so on. People don’t think about the fact that we’re a generation that grew up seeing our parents struggle with balancing raising a family and putting food on the table, and seeing their relationships go down the toilet in the process. Because our parents were too busy and overworked to be involved in our lives, we lost out on learning valuable life skills. This of course leaves us unprepared as we enter a ruthless post-recession economy with few job prospects. According to a 2017 report by the Federal Reserve, Millennials are on track to make 20 percent less money than their parents. On top of all of this, we have to deal with out-of-touch elders dismissing our problems by telling us we’re lazy. We didn’t choose NAFTA. We didn’t deregulate the private sector, and yet we have to pay for it. At this point what’s a Gen-Z person like me supposed to do?
When we tell an older person “OK, Boomer,” it’s not because we’re “entitled” or “arrogant,” it’s because we’re sick of our elders gaslighting us and shaming us for not owning a home. You can sit there and be upset about that, or at least try to extend an olive branch to our generation. But what you will not do is trivialize the oppression of millions of people all over the Black Diaspora. “Boomer” at worst could mean you feeling bitter for two minutes, but someone calling me the n-word at worst could mean the end of my life.