If you use social media, you’re bound to see heated political clashes between the young and old, especially among those in your family. In recent weeks, millennials and members of Generation Z have tightened the generational feud against baby boomers by popularizing the phrase “OK boomer.” This simple retort is intended to dismiss cliché conservative talking points from older people, usually by those over the age of 55, as out-of-touch elder ramblings. The term has sparked outrage among some on the internet, with one conservative radio host likening the phrase’s usage to a racial slur. On behalf of all young people struggling to pursue a living in today’s uncertain world, I have zero patience for those close-minded, conservative boomers whining that they’re being called out for their destructive, regressive worldviews.
At this point, it’s a rite of passage as a young person to be serenaded by elders with a tale of how, back in their day, they worked their way through college with no loans on, say, $5 per hour. Adjusting for inflation, if they were working and attending school in 1975, they would have been making the equivalent of over $23 per hour in 2019. The price of a now-essential college education has reached astronomical levels and the federal minimum wage hasn’t seen a raise in a decade. Times have certainly changed, and many feel that the American dream, whatever it may have once entailed, is dead and gone. Instead of insisting that the younger generation merely lacks the work ethic of its ancestors, perhaps baby boomers should acknowledge that our economic circumstances are vastly different, and our frustrations are more than warranted.
When we’re not breaking our backs to cover unaffordable rent prices, young people are dealing with the existential dread of the impending climate crisis. Only a week ago, a group of 11,000 researchers worldwide warned that “untold suffering” in the form of highly polluted air and coastal flooding is on the way if substantive policy to combat rising temperatures and carbon dioxide emissions is not implemented. According to polling from the Yale Program on Climate Communication, older generations are significantly less concerned about climate change and its impact than young people. I’m personally finished engaging with low-quality discourse from boomers on my social media feeds making straw-man arguments against anthropogenic climate change, which often conflate weather with climate trends. We are at a crossroads in regards to the future of the planet, and many older people are standing their ground against progress.
The dismissive, bigoted attitude that many boomers hold toward marginalized communities, whether it be women, racial minorities or LGBTQ+ individuals, is wholly unacceptable. Feminist activists have championed women’s agency for decades, but my Facebook feed is still riddled with boomer memes with the proverbial “I hate my wife” punchline which, besides not being funny, is beyond overused. Five decades removed from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s historic March on Washington, I’m greeted with racist images doubting former President Barack Obama’s U.S. citizenship (frankly one of the tamer tropes I’ve seen in regards to boomer racial politics). The fight to end workplace discrimination against LGBTQ+ Americans rages on, and you guessed it — more hateful nonsense. Boomers might have been raised in a different time, but the world isn’t going to stand still to appease their conservatism. It’s about time they caught up with the rest of us.
If you’re a boomer that understands how different things are today, how personal these struggles are to young people, and you feel betrayed by my rhetoric, you’re not the target of this article. I do, however, urge you to speak to your peers. Help them to understand that yes, in fact, we’re working hard and trying our best. Corporate greed, government corruption and many other harmful factors stand in the way of a more progressive world. You can help to bridge the generational divide that has made these tense conversations necessary.
Our lives are getting harder, our pockets are getting lighter and our planet is dying. Sound like an exaggeration? OK, boomer.
Zach Ball (20C) is from Griffin, Ga.