Obviously, Boomers do not see the world as Gen Z does. Last Wednesday, I had the opportunity to present and interact with a group of 10-12th graders.
I opened and closed giving Gen Z loving and well intentioned life advice from Boomers. Although I had not directly asked what advice they had from Boomers, I walked away clear that they have some advice for us as well.
The students and I spent significant time discussing implicit bias and prevalent Boomer biases on gender, clothing, piercings, and tatoos.
Like fellow Boomers, I inherited my parents’ “Because I said so” attitude and demeanors. Our parents did not have or make the time for explanations. “No” was for our protection as we sought to assimilate and conform in a patriarchal and emerging industrial society.
Gen Z got how we Boomers were handed down some beliefs and traditions without question but they also peeked how fear and prejudices drive many of the strict, rigid, exclusionary prohibitions, rules, and expectations that still exist today.
The world has changed and what was a perceived threat back then is not a threat today. In fact, most things have changed since our traditionalist parents were kids. Life has evolved.
Gen Z has the benefit of that evolution. For them, self-expression and equality do not yield to senseless and harmful norms and rules.
Gen Z’s advice is that we examine our rules and update them and eliminate the unnecessary ones.
Does hair color make a difference? If the goal of playing is to have fun, why do we restrict who can play with certain toys? Why restrict clothes or who people date?
Boomers, it’s time we go through our rules like we spring clean our closets. Toss out our favorite sweater which is now a moth eaten rag and pass down the few valuable items that withstand time. Need help? Text a Gen Z’er.
How many times did diversity topics come up in your conversations this week? Were there missed opportunities?
On Tuesday, July 22 I received a email from an organization with the subject line “Eid Al-Adha Mubarak”. The text read “ May your day be full of happiness and love.” I supported a day filled with happiness and love, but it would be meaningless to send felicitations and not have some understanding of the holiday being celebrate or observed. I reached out to a Muslim friend to find out more about the observation.
This week, I spoke with a friend who had discovered Netflix series “Pose” and another who reminded me that “Never Have I ever” had begun a second season, giving us the opportunity to acknowledge and express appreciation that the LBGTQ+ and Indian communities were being represented in the media. Media created a window in which we could peek into the lives of others and appreciate how we were different and alike.
A Thursday early evening phone call with an older relative was the highlight of the week. Her cageyness about her whereabouts trigged my implicit bias. Age equaled fragility, right? And, my responsibility was to protect “My Old People”?
I slowed down my runaway thoughts and response and checked myself. I realized that fragility was not a fact with this person and my protection probably felt like smothering and outright disrespect. I fought the desire to control and went with curiosity—listening and asking questions. She was safe and okay and would call me later with an updated status. Did I like it? No, but I could live with it. “My Old People” are older adults who are able and capable of taking care of themselves and will invite my assistance —not my meddling— when they need it. They are related to me. I do not own them or their free will.
Add to the topic and conversation list: promoting neurodiversity to increase innovation when strategic planning, advocating for diversity and representation in the judiciary, and reviewing materials for a teen leadership academy session on generational diversity and intersectionality. In this respect, my week was not unusual. Opportunities to routinely discuss diversity topics are plentiful.
We all have many opportunities to talk about diversity and to promote it along with equity and inclusion.
Sometimes I am the learner. Eid Al-Adha is referred to as the major Muslim holiday. It marks the culmination of the pilgrimage to Mecca and commemorates the willingness of Prophet Abraham to sacrifice his son in his devotion to GOD.
Sometimes I am teacher. Neurodiversity is acknowledging people think differently and there is a value of bringing that variety together to generate innovation.
Both the student and teacher experiences are rewarding. And when I self-check and correct like I did on the age bias, I am reminded that diversity work is a continuing process.
This week be aware and take advantages of the conversation opportunities.
I am a stereotypical African-American middle aged, Christian, menopausal, urban born and raised, woman with 4C hair named Zenell.
Any broader stereotypical description does not fit as well. In fact, they are uncomfortable as shoes that are too big. Who I really am gets lost in them. Who I am is the intersectionality of all of my identities. And, I keep acquiring identities. Most recently, my marital status changed to widow. That quick and unexpected change has definitely transformed me and added another layer of complexity to who I am.
I am sure I am not the only one who does not want to get trapped into a world of stereotypes. Shoes that are too big hurt!!
A stereotype is our elementary beginning point to understanding someone from another identity. We must realize that a stereotype is a monolith that does not fully apply to any individual of that identity. When a person does not fit the stereotype, do not think that person is an exception or a special kind of Black person, Gay person etc. Call your self back in and remember each person is a intersection and layering of identities and we need to get to know them at that level.