Will millennials solve or lessen the racial divide in our nation? How about marketers?

Screen Shot 2016-07-20 at 12.50.03 PMImagine a world where people are not judged by their race or ethnicity.  Or, even a world where we don’t have constant racially charged incidences of violence.  You don’t have to be a couch potato tuned into mainstream TV news to know that we don’t live in that world.  Having a black President for two terms did not solve or even minimize the racial divide.  I could argue that it may have made it worse–or better say, bring forth to surface the hidden, deep rooted racism or fear of it.  I could argue that we would not have Trump today without having had Obama for two terms.  Right, wrong, or indifferent, I for one, always believed the new generations, Gen Y and Gen Z, will solve most of our racial divide and tension.  All research I’ve done over the years pointed to our younger generations leaning toward progressive culture, color blindness, gender neutrality.  Not so, says GenForward June 2016 poll, published by Washington Post last week–the first ongoing, monthly survey of young people that focuses on major racial and ethnic groups.

Let’s take a look at a few highlights from the report:

Millennial minorities in the survey overwhelmingly identified with Democrats, but whites were split down the middle: 44% Democrats, 42% Republicans. In this respect, the young white adults resembled their parents — in the general population, whites lean Republican 49 to 40 percent, according to Pew.  We all know GOP has always had difficulties attracting minorities.  But I was surprised to find out that GOP is still holding on to a large chunk of white millennials–not so much on the fiscal policies but cultural policies.  So I guess not much has changed generationally.  What has changed is the growth of minority population, reflected mostly in the youth population.  I’ve written extensively on this.

Interestingly, the GOP split among the white millennial population does not correlate to Trump support.  This report showed that majority of millennials of all ethnic groups think Donald Trump is a racist–77% of blacks, 78% of Asians, 81% of Hispanics, even 58% of whites.  This correlates to millennials’ support for Bernie Sanders, even among minorities, debunking the stereotype that Bernie supporters are mostly white.

The report also highlighted that majority of millennials believe that racism remains a major problem in our society.  But Blacks (80%) and Hispanics (74%) agree with the statement to a much larger extend than Asians (64%) and Whites (54%)–and understandably so.  However, although a majority of young minorities supported the Black Lives Matter movement, only 41% of young whites did.

Millennials won’t solve the nation’s massive racial divide.  I agree.  But I believe Millennials have and will lessen this division.  This report doesn’t compare these numbers against the older generation.  If it did, I’m certain we’d see the progress.  Perhaps I tend to look at a glass half full.  That 41% of white millennials support Black Lives Matter and 58% view Trump and his campaign as racist speaks volume for this progress.

This report surveyed nearly 2,000 adults between the ages of 18 and 30: about 500 black, 600 white, 500 Latino and 300 Asian.  No multiracials, fastest growing yet tough to define and measure.  Biracial population currently over 9 million is projected to grow by 194% by 2050…inter-racial marriages have quadrupled since the 80s (doubled since 2008)….1 in 10 US babies living w/ 2 parents were multiracial in 2013 (up from just 1% in 1970).  These are the numbers I’ve been reporting from the latest 2015 census report.  So naturally, these rapid demographics and cultural shifts will lessen the racial division.  In fact, census is considering to avoid the word “race” in their 2020 report to accurately measure multiracial and multicultural population, by asking questions about lifestyle and culture instead.

I spent over 25 years of my life as a marketing executive, so I tend to put some of the burden on marketers.  If a marketer’s job is to encourage trial and build demand, then surely we can have cultural impact.  How often do we see commercials with inner-racial couples? What we see in the advertising world is not reflecting the true demographics in the real world.  Frankly, we see the racial division in most marketing and advertising materials.  I see “representation” of minorities in most catalogues and ads, but I hardly see them interacting, living and relating across racial and cultural lines.  I think we’ve done well with years of empowerment initiatives for women.  And we still have a long way to go.  But we need empowerment initiatives for racial unity.  Somehow, this vital social, cultural and political issue gets shuffled in the hidden pile of diversity initiatives in HR.  Perhaps it’s time for business and marketing world not to judge consumers entirely by their race or ethnicity.  Those lines are getting much trickier to define.

3 Responses

  1. Yes. What a fantastic way to give people insights and be accurate. True. How often are we seeing multi racial kids and adults in our advertising on TV? Farnaz, Thank You So Much. You are so insightful and brilliant.

  2. Parvaneh Zargar

    Thank you for your informative post. I really like this, however I don’t think having black president did not make the racial divide worse. The hidden deep rooted racism were always there, but we hear and see about them more. Young generation don’t tolerate this and will not be quiet about it like their parents and grand parents. Needless to say Trump made it worse. He opened the lid of racial pot and stir it. He is running for how to divide racial in. our nation not running against Hilary. Thank you again for your great article.

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