Racism Still Prevalent, Even Among Millennials

White millennials are as prejudiced as previous generations of whites.

White millennials are as prejudiced as previous generations of whites.


It is often said of millennials that they are the most tolerant, race-blind generation in our history. This originated in part because of a 2012 Pew Research report based on more than two decades of research that concluded the younger generation was more racially tolerant than previous generations. However, astute analysis of the research renders a different interpretation of the data.

Millennials are persons born after 1980. The generation before them, born from 1965-1980, are labeled Generation (or Gen) X.  Baby Boomers were born 1946-1964. The Silent Generation consists of persons born prior to 1946.

Misinterpreting research data has caused an error in perception concerning the absence or reduction of  racism among millennials.  By not separating white millennials from other millennials or by focusing on questions about explicit racial beliefs, a true picture of racism among millennials has not been painted.

Research data do not show millennials to be more racially tolerant than their parents. For example, 93% of white millennials are  likely to support interracial dating and marriage; so are 92% of white Gen Xers. The difference in responses is not statistically significant. White millennials are a bit more likely (6%) than white Gen Xers (5%) to say that interracial marriage is a change for the worse but the difference in answers is not significant. When queried about work ethic, 31% of white millennials, 32% of Gen Xers, 35% of Boomers rated blacks lazier or less hardworking than whites. Again, there is no significant difference in responses. It seems that white millennials hold racial prejudices against blacks just as previous generations do.

More revealing are tests designed to capture the unconscious or implicit racial attitudes of millennials. A study of 2.5 million voluntary subjects between July 2000 and May 2006  showed little generational difference in implicit bias against blacks except for the Silent Generation which held far greater bias. There were, however, differences in the accuracy of self-evaluation of racial bias: Younger subjects underestimated their racial bias at a greater level than did older subjects. Millennials don’t seem to realize how prejudiced they are.


Although millennials as a group are America’s most racially and ethnically diverse generation, white  millennials are not less racially prejudiced than previous generations of whites.


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