Written by Bethel Domfeh
A few weeks ago, a video surfaced showing University of Oklahoma’s Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) fraternity members chanting racial slurs on a bus. This video has gone viral during a sensitive time in racial tensions resulting from national dissension over police brutality. The slurs roared by the SAE fraternity contradict the widely held assumption that the millennial generation ranging from 1980’s to 2000’s, are more “tolerant” than their predecessors.
According to PEW Research Center, the millennial generation is more opened about topics such as interracial dating than Baby Boomers, Generation X, and silent generations. When asked, (95%) of Millennials agreed with the statement that “I think it is all right for blacks and whites to date each other.” When presented with the same statement, Generation X agreed by (85%). These percentages indicate that the millennial generation have fewer apprehensions regarding interracial mingling and dating. PEW research went a step further in describing the harmony amongst the races when their report showed (54%) of Millennials say their friends are of different races.
So far, PEW’s research shows that the millennial generation will date and form friendships with other races. However, if this is so, why would such a racist video surface the Internet showing the millennial generation acting in such a contradictory manner? Many now wonder if the white Millennials are progressive and tolerant on race issues? Or are they a mere image of past generations?
Spencer Piston, an assistant professor of political science at Syracuse University dispels these looming questions in his 2012 American National Election Studies racial stereotype battery. During his examination, the survey respondents rated the intelligence and work ethic of Whites, Hispanics, African American, and Asians. The results found that younger whites under 30 agreed by (61%) that whites are more intelligent and hardworking than African Americans and older whites agreed by (64%) to the same assumption. A close call between the two age groups.
Piston states, “White Millennials appear to be no less prejudiced than the rest of the white population,” Piston told Science of Us in an email, “at least using this dataset and this measure of prejudice.” Based upon Piston’s research, the progressive movement toward racial harmony within the millennial generation is discredited which may explain why the racist chants erupted on the SAE filled fraternity bus.
If the white millennial generation is becoming increasingly more tolerant of other races, why do such occurrences as demonstrated by the SAE fraternity take place? As America continues to represent a racially diverse population, issues such as what occurred on the SAE bus must be examined and met with clarity as to the level of tolerance amongst the white millennial generation. New York Times has pointed out on its Science of Us website polls and surveys lump all subgroups of millenniums together which is a problem. Researchers must not create false perceptions of the tolerance emerging from the millennial generation by grouping them together. Rather, research must be evaluated by the level of racial acceptance within each ethnic group to determine the level of racial cohesion amongst the millennial generation.
Bethel Domfeh is a native of Woodbridge, VA and an undergraduate at George Mason University pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Government and International Affairs. This spring, Bethel is serving in the Office of Sen. Claire McCaskill (MI) as a State Farm Communications Intern.