New Report on Millennials- Race and Activism

New Report on Millennials- Race and Activism


When I realized that what was happening to me and my family was not an aberration but was part of a plan. My passion came from my personal experience and my rage about it came from understanding that it was broader. Poverty is a political issue, so is immigration enforcement, etc. It’s all part of a plan to keep people down. 

–Derrick, 27, African-American male employee of a social justice organization (New York)

The Applied Research Center recently released a report on what motivates Millennials to become active in progressive politics. The report is based on 18 to 30 year olds who are active in social justice work and includes some participants of the Occupy Movement.  The results are based on 9 focus groups that were held in Atlanta, Baltimore, New York, Oakland, and Portland in 2011 and 2012. Full Report

The Study found that:

  • Personal and/or family experience was consistently the most cited influence in young people’s trajectory toward social justice work, and this effect is particularly pronounced among progressive people of color.
  • Occupy participants tend to be particularly disillusioned with the electoral system and mainstream politics, and are skeptical of approaches that will siphon off the energy of their movement into electoral politics. They feel that actions outside of the system offer more potential for moving a new political agenda.
  • When asked directly about their feelings around using an explicit racial lens, the vast majority of participants argued that it was key to the success of social movements. They identified the connections between various systems (racism, sexism, capitalism) as critical, but such a multilayered analysis is not always expressed during broad discussions of barriers to progressive solutions.

Some of the findings I found interesting were the questions involving critical issues, barriers to change, and the ideal society.

  •  The top five critical issues as named by participants in the study were racial justice, economic/class justice, sexism and gender issues, prisons and crime, and the environment.
  • Barriers to change cited were the general public’s lack of awareness of history and political analysis, capitalism, racism, xenophobia, consumerism, and complacency.
  • The ideal society would be based on community and cooperation, self-government, compassion, empathy, acceptance, and understanding and that everyone would have basic food and shelter.

 There’s no way to say, “A + B = C”… It’s, like, super-nasty complicated. And that’s why we keep coming back to this “Is it race, is it class? What is it?” It’s both.
—Pilar, 23, Latina graduate student


I found this report to be very informative however, since our justice work is done in a rural setting, I wonder how different the answers would have been had rural Millenials been in the conversation.


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