South Africa’s youth are not ‘millennials’ - The Mail & Guardian

Labelling them in the same way as youth in the US leads to false perceptions and misunderstanding

2021-06-18 10:00:00 AM

Labelling them in the same way as youth in the US leads to false perceptions and misunderstanding

Labelling them in the same way as youth in the US leads to false perceptions and misunderstanding

. These figures are averages and don’t illustrate differences in wealth and homeownership according to race and income.Such differences in a South African context are again so vast that alternative categories accounting for significant racial disparities are needed. The post-World War II boom experienced in the US occurred at the same time white South African society sanctioned apartheid, leading to a boom in racialised inequality. The legacy of this inequality contributes to the inadequacy of a category such as millennial. 

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For instance, as the baby boomer generation continues to age in the United States the “great wealth transfer” is set to take place, when some $30-trillion will be passed on to millennials. This financial cushion allows millennials to be taken care of by their parents or families in the event of an emergency.

In South Africa, the opposite is largely true. Because of racialised inequality there’s little wealth to be inherited. Many South Africans, in particular black people, don’t have the luxury of being able to rely on parents or family in an emergency. Instead young — especially black — South Africans are often the sole breadwinners in their families. This sets up a different dynamic: “black tax”, where younger black South Africans tend to support older or unemployed family members.

It’s important to consider the role of generational differences in South Africa more broadly. Although it’s not discussed as often as it should be, South African history has tended to turn on a generational swivel.One example is the formation of the ANC Youth League in 1944. Frustrated by passive appeals to colonial institutions and frameworks, a generation of educated and urbanising younger black South Africans worked to create an organisation that enabled active modes of resistance, leading to an important shift in how white supremacy was resisted. 

Members of this generation spearheaded the creation of the Freedom Charter in 1955, and led the country through the transition to democracy.A second example is the 1976 Soweto riots. After black opposition politics was effectively neutralised in the early 1960s domestic resistance to apartheid fell into a lull. When schoolchildren rose up against education instruction in Afrikaans, resistance to apartheid experienced a resurgence that carried on into the 1980s.

A third example is the Fees Must Fall protests at universities in 2015 and 2016. Universities have consistently featured as sites of struggles. But these protests represented a pushback — if not rejection — of the aspirations of the democratic project in South Africa heralded by the same members of the ANC that started the Youth League. 

This example suggests the gulf between old and young South Africans is wider than we realise and deserves more attention. To be fair, there are similarities between millennials in the US and so-called “millennials” in South Africa. Both cohorts are affected by broad national aspirations failing to meet reality. Moreover, despite increased levels of education, changing or stagnant economies have affected people’s attitudes about the future.

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These similarities reflect a flattening of identities from a global vantage point. But this flattening looks different on the ground in the US and South Africa, reminding us of the influence of national history and societal contrasts. If we do not understand the extent to which the wide gulf between young and old South Africans has on the social fabric, we run the risk of being unable to anticipate major pivots. If we misunderstand young South Africans as “millennials”, we may not be able to do so.

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You don't understand: Many SA's think they are Americans... Example: In the US whites have privilege according to woke theory. But in SA blacks are in the privilege in woke theory. Yet... Also, damn near every piece of 'journalism' about US millennials has been utter nonsense. Actual research on millennials shows that they are hard working, socially-aware, adaptable, and gatvol at how we, the older generations, have effed up the world. And they're right.

CoruscaKhaya I thought the paper would tackle the differences in the overly broad categorization of youth in SA, spanning two decades, father and son. The author says the SA youth cant to be called millenials because of our economic struggles & there shall be no wealth transfer from our fathers to us - as compared to our counterparts in US. Kwaze kanzima bo. Mbeki once asked, why do we allow people to describe us?

What about all the other American woke things CoruscaKhaya Paper really prints everything.. when the underlying factors change does not mean the label is wrong. You are born around a certain time you belong to a certain group. No matter what your economical situation is etc.

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