But maybe you’re not hearing or watching us
We’ve heard it all.
We’re spoiled. We’re entitled. We’re overly confident.
Every week there’s another article about another industry that millenials “killed.”
“Millennials kill avocado toast.”
“Millennials kill department stores.”
“Millennials kill Hooters.”
Eh, not all of them are an actual loss.
So many of these labels are hurled in our direction that many of us have grown to resent the term “millennial” itself.
But of all those nicknames and labels, “conscious” is one that never finds its way toward describing our generation. Whether it be socially or politically, society rarely appreciates how much we are or could be. That’s especially the case when being “eco-conscious.”
Studies show that we thrift more often than any previous generation. From AirBnb to coworking spaces, we are the chiefs – the originators, it seems – of resource sharing.
We are a generation thoroughly invested in personal wellness, the wellness of the planet and how both spheres intersect. Many of us eat vegan – in fact, according to Forbes, 70 percent of the world’s population is eating less meat because of us. And from our food to our make-up we tend to support brands that are cruelty-free, as well as eco-friendly.
Rather than “ruining” the environment, as our critics like to say, we’re the ones most likely acting to save it in our daily routines. This isn’t just because we know better. It’s because we’re forced to. With the high levels of unemployment, jobs with lower wages and crippling student loan debt, our side hustles have side hustles.
We are experts at adapting.
And while sustainability is being called the “new black,” it’s not new to Black people. Though the young and the White tend to be poster-kids for all things green and gluten-free, minimalism and sustainability has been a proud Black practice in this country out of necessity and survival … thanks to white supremacy.
With this current administration, for example, there’s an increased sense of urgency surrounding climate change.
A few months into the Trump presidency, and he quickly announced his plan to remove the United States from the Paris Climate Accord. The multi-national agreement within the United Nations is meant to combat the effects of climate change by regulating emissions. Every other nation gets it … and we, too, got it for a moment until he arrived on the scene. But in this new world, the EPA announced that it plans on repealing the coal pollution rules instituted by former President Barack Obama.
As Black Millennials, we understand the gravity of these decisions in a way no one else does. While climate change is discussed across all communities, people of color tend to bear the brunt of the impact. If this is what the future looks like, you should understand why we’re stressed.
In Black communities, we are more likely to be exposed to air pollution. In fact, race plays a larger role in exposure than income, age or education. Due to this, one in six African American children have asthma. Black children are five times more likely than White children to have lead poisoning.
What does that mean for Black Millennials in the U.S.? For the children and grandchildren of the redlined?
Not only do those environmental disparities affect us based on race, but they are also as underreported as the efforts of Black people, especially young Black people, who are in the green space fighting them.
That’s an everyday fight – and a fight we can’t choose to ignore or walk away from. The state of the environment follows us everywhere we go. The quality of the planet’s health or the madness of human beings who try to destroy it is directly attributed to the color of our skin, in some strange and horribly insane way. We’re breathing dirtier air because of it, we’re drinking or bathing in dirtier water because of it. As a result, this is not, exclusively, a “White people’s problem.” Many activists may not call themselves “environmentalists” or “climate activists,” but their work falls in line with environmental justice.
Black Lives Matter, which is in many ways an extension of movements generations before us, continues to expand what valuing and protecting Black lives means. Activists fight at the intersections of Blackness and womanhood, queerness, physical and mental wellness, economics and the environment.
Or as activist Sarra Tekola put it for Green America “These issues are all connected, so you can’t solve climate change if we do not also solve other inequities.”
“Eric Garner died because he couldn’t breathe [after being put in a banned chokehold by New York City police], and there are so many kids in communities of color who are dying because they can’t breathe [from coal pollution]. In the end, I think everyone who heard us realized that, and it was a very powerful moment.”
Young Black people are holding the government and the public accountable for the Flint water crisis in Michigan or they’re standing in solidarity with indigenous tribes at Standing Rock to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline.
In Philadelphia, you see this in the fight against food apartheid and fresh food access with organizations like Philly Urban Creators. Creators uses “food, art & celebration, and political education as tools to nurture resilience, self-determination, equity, and youth empowerment in frontline communities.”
Or North Philly Peace Park , a “neighborhood-managed campus championing food, education and community.” The entire design of the park is influenced by Afrofuturism, which is the imagining of the future through an African Diasporic lens.
In fact, studies show that despite the socio-political inequalities that Black millennials face, they are very optimistic about their future. More optimistic than their White counterparts. “With a heightened sense of control over their future, [Black millennials] have the most faith that their hard work will pay off,” was the conclusion in a 2017 joint University of Texas and Richard/Lerma advertising agency study.
There is hope that the world we fight for will be able to sustain the generations after us.
And in more ways than one.