From watching “The Jeffersons” and “Soul Train” on TV, to rollerskating every Saturday afternoon at World on Wheels with my peers from Parent Elementary School, I am truly a child of the 1970s.
I am also a Los Angeles native, born and raised in South L.A. when Westfield was still called the Fox Hills Mall and not conveniently located in Culver City. In essence, I am a Gen-Xer, those currently between the ages of 37 to 52, and the direct descendants of the civil rights generation.
While we share some common ground with our Baby Boomer parents, as a Gen Xer, it is all too clear to me that our life’s lens and experiences painfully differ from that of today’s Millennials. Our perspectives are different. Our goals are different.
Our sense of family, community and wealth-building are totally different than that of today’s reality TV and tech-savvy generation.
Numbering more than 11 million, African-American Millennials surpass us in their use of technology, social media and music to raise awareness, impact change and get their voices heard on a range of social, political and community issues that continue to plague black America.
While their passion is admirable, what concerns me the most is that it is not guided by a plan, a roadmap or an agenda. And it appears the future of black America is on the phones of a generation with a displayed indifference to embracing nuclear families, creating intergenerational wealth and establishing a moral compass — virtues Gen-Xers were taught from our parents’ struggle for social equality and economic mobility.
But how can we lead a generation that is content on being “baby’s daddys,” becoming YouTube stars and starting to question whether Jesus was truly the son of God? How can we impact the progress of the black community if we aren’t having the necessary and difficult conversations Baby Boomers would prefer we have in private.
“Don’t air our dirty laundry” is what they would say. But if we don’t, how does it get “cleaned?”
As we near the 50th anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King, the time has come for us to reassess: Who are we? Where are we going? And how do we get there?
With today’s Millennials poised for world domination, Generation X has the inherent responsibility to lead the way. If we don’t assert ourselves soon, we risk losing our ability to influence the political direction, socioeconomic health and cultural authenticity of the black community.
As the generation that has directly benefitted from the efforts of King, we know better. We know our history supersedes one month out of the year. We know real wealth is created through asset accumulation and not from a W-2. We even know white privilege exists and how to leverage it by being “spooks by the door.”
However, while we know a lot, our voices are uncomfortably silent. And the time has come for Generation X to speak up and step up to the plate by having conversations and seeking resolutions to those issues that continue to impact us as a people, a family and a community.
However, in the “wheel of life,” Generation X is just one spoke. In order for the wheel to roll effectively in any direction, all the spokes have to work together. In essence, while my generation needs to step up to the plate, Baby Boomers need to step off their thrones and pass the torch.
Lessons still need to be learned. Doors still need to be opened. Money still needs to be mobilized and recycled. A rich African culture and history still needs to be retold and reminded.
We all have strengths and it’s our responsibility to leverage them collectively by creating a black agenda that will benefit the generation to come, Generation Z.
Boomer’s strength is in their knowledge and understanding of “the game.” Gen Xers have the education and entrepreneurial spirit. The Millennials’ power lies in technology and their ability to mobilize quickly and efficiently.
At the end of the day, a legacy will be left. What will be the legacy of today’s black community? Each generation has the responsibility to the other by mobilizing their strengths and assuming their rightful positions in the evolution of black America.
With racism still alive and embraced by the current presidential administration, black America does not have the luxury of keeping our problems hidden behind closed doors and not open for public discourse.
King said, “Our lives begin and end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Therefore, I invite you to read my monthly column, “Generational Voices,” where I engage in relevant conversations with some of L.A.’s emerging young professionals and community leaders on their thoughts, concerns and strategies for the generational progress of black America.
Starlett Quarles is a public speaker, moderator and host of the internet TV Talk Show, “The Dialogue with Starlett Quarles.” For more, please visit www.TheDialogueLA.com.