Generational stereotyping is a particular favorite when it comes to value-judgment-based shorthand: The Greatest Generation are patriots. Boomers are set in their ways and looking forward to retirement. Gen Xers are rebel slackers. Millennials are lazy, entitled financial failures.
In the research world, where I spend my days, we’re just beginning to talk about Gen Zers, as they’ve been thrust onto the main stage in the wake of the horrific tragedy in Parkland, Florida. And as stereotypes go, they are getting a fantastic rep.
This generation is about principles. And because of our politics, we’re failing this principled generation.
This isn’t a partisan issue; it’s across the board. Our country and our politicians have made poor judgments, sending the wrong signals to a generation that sees us all as equals who should be treated as such.
One of the first and most effective ways to communicate solid leadership is through language. The president of the United States is on tape bragging that he “moved on her like a bitch” and that he could come up to women and “grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.” He has called women fat, pigs, disgusting animals and slobs.
Our response was to elect him to the highest office in the world.
Another way to demonstrate leadership is action. When known white supremacist and president of the National Policy Institute Richard Spencer led a torchlight march in Charlottesville, Virginia, and a white supremacist rally the next day ended in the death of Heather Heyer, President TrumpDonald TrumpMark Walker to stay in North Carolina Senate race Judge lays out schedule for Eastman to speed up records processing for Jan. 6 panel Michael Avenatti cross-examines Stormy Daniels in his own fraud trial MORE said there were “some very fine people on both sides.”
That moment in Charlottesville isn’t a free-speech issue. It is not about the right to demonstrate or about the politics of the “alt left.” It set an example and a message of equivocation on issues that are genuinely black-and-white. It’s about balking when it’s necessary to stand up for what’s right.
In another example, which still makes my head spin, Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan claimed in a speech last week that “the powerful Jews are my enemy” and that he had “pulled the cover off of that Satanic Jew and I’m here to say your time is up, your world is through.” Farrakhan’s anti-semitism is not new — he has touted Hitler as a “very great man” in the past.
What is new is footage of him displaying fierce misogyny. In a sermon, he shouts, “You lazy woman. You don’t want to get in the damn kitchen and cook, so you bring your children to these fast-food places, killing them and yourself because you’re too damn lazy and triflin’ to cook again. Who the hell wants a woman with a good shape and a fat behind that don’t know how to prepare no food for her husband and her children? To hell with a woman like that.”
Talk like that has no place in our society and it has no partisan context. And though certain members of the Congressional Black Caucus have longstanding ties to Farrakhan, and that won’t change, two leaders of the Women’s March — the seminal women’s equality event/movement of today — are refusing to disown him. What’s more, this is a story that is getting only moderate news coverage. When you consider that the D.C. Women’s March in 2017 was better attended than the president’s inauguration, the gravity of this situation surfaces.
Can you imagine a leader of the Women’s March standing for any man talking to a woman like that? It’s antithetical to the mission of the Women’s March, which is, according to the organization’s site, “committed to dismantling systems of oppression through nonviolent resistance and building inclusive structures guided by self-determination, dignity and respect.”
There is no dignity, respect or dismantling of oppression in Farrakhan’s words. In fact, his remarks are aggressively oppressive.
Moreover, when you consider that the March for Our Lives, a planned demonstration in late March, was created and inspired by students across America who want to put an end to mass shootings, how can we not do something to correct the example we’re setting?
Today, we must take a zero-tolerance policy to leaders who belittle, demean and espouse hate against others, no matter how they vote. We are not living up to our own ideals as a society, and you need only talk to a teenager today about their views on race or gender to understand how remarkably wrong we’re getting it.
We will lose this outstanding and impressive generation if we don’t change course — and not just at the ballot box.
Jessica Tarlov is head of research at Bustle Digital Group and a Fox News contributor. She earned her Ph.D. at the London School of Economics in political science.