by Andie Mills
Have you ever heard someone proclaim that Prius drivers are the worst drivers? And yet, if that same person had been involved in multiple encounters with other vehicles – being cut-off, seeing them drifting along the road as if they weren’t paying attention, or (universe forbid) getting into an actual accident – could they honestly say the offending vehicle was a Prius? Maybe some. Maybe none. It doesn't matter, because even after those encounters you're unlikely to hear them start proclaiming, "Lexus drivers are the worst drivers!" or "Drivers of green cars are the worst drivers!" It seems that once someone declares a stereotype, groupthink follows in spite of evidence or a lack thereof. Others start joining the chorus with no objective facts to back it up, but rather because it confirms a personal unconscious (or maybe very conscious) bias or because it helps them to fit in and sound like one of the gang.
Here’s another common one: Millennials are so entitled because they expect participation prizes (um, didn’t their parents implement that practice?) and work-life balance (grasping my pearls!). Or another: Gen Z are so self-involved! (coming from Baby Boomers and Gen X-ers who post every thought on Facebook so that their friends and family can appreciate how witty, clever, productive, or enlightened they are. But, you know, selfies.)
As a proud member of Gen X, I’ve seen this kind of denigration of an entire generation throughout my life. And I call bullshit. The bottom line is this: most people like to belong, so they cheerfully chime in to call out the “other;” most people aren’t comfortable with different.
But different is precisely what we’re going to get, like it or not, and we at CONSCIOUSLY are betting that different is just what we all need to get society back on track. On track to providing better futures for the coming generations: fairer wealth dispersion, more opportunity, better health of people and the climate, more security, equity, increased wellness, and the list goes on.
Different is happening. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, our population has seen more change in the last five years than there was in the previous 50. This is due entirely to generational change with Millennials and Gen Z. Currently, almost half of the post-Millennial population is non-white. In the next decade, more than half the population under 30 will be non-white.
It’s happening with plenty of conscious decisions, as well. According to panelists at Variety magazine’s 2019 Inclusion Summit, the younger generations are more prone to embracing differences, and they acknowledge that being “different” is pretty normal.
“We’re seeing a transition from multiculturalism, which is really when you divide people by their differences, and it’s very much driven by a traditional, let’s say white, male, Christian, heteronormative, patriarchal point of view where segments are silos… to omniculturalism, which is really much more about a world where difference is normalized, and every single one of you… is unique and different,” Linda Ong of Civic Entertainment Group said at the “Brands Take a Stand for Millennials and Gen Z” panel. “You’re all unicorns that are the sum total of your intersectionality, right? This is very much a Millennial/Gen Z point of view because they were born with this notion of equality. ‘Diversity’ isn’t really even a term for them. It’s just ‘humanity.’” The younger generation expects the people and brands they support to be authentic and take a stand for something, and they are putting their money where their values are. This creates tremendous opportunity for boutique and niche brands, as younger customers are not as concerned with conformity as their predecessors. That opportunity also exists for more prominent brands, as well. Where they may have had to play it safe to please everyone in the past, now they can actually profit from “picking sides” or tackling potentially controversial issues of corporate responsibility. Being transparent in these ways helps them to resonate with a generation that expects authenticity. Try to distract them with a shiny PR stunt while you’re doing something shady behind the scenes? They’ll sniff it out and call your bull faster than you can unfollow James Charles.
At CONSCIOUSLY, we embrace new and different. We think it’s time to be objective, face facts, and take a stand. We’re okay with not being one of the gang. That’s why we're putting our faith in Millennials and Gen Z. If you want to see (and do!) better in the world, we think you should put your faith in them, too.