This was not the post that I had originally planned for this week.
When I sat down to plan my content topics in December, there was no way I could have known that between then and now we’d have another five school shootings, including the one in Parkland, Florida that left 17 people dead. I didn’t know that young people would walk out of class, or take to the streets of Washington D.C. and other cities around the country to March for Their Lives. That did not show up on my editorial calendar.
My last post was about defining moments of the Millennial generation, and how shared experiences of significance do more to bring together a generation than do a collection of birth years. In the post, I wrote about how the Pew Research Center determined that 1996 would be the cutoff year of the Millennial generation, mostly due to the sweeping impact of 9/11. According to Pew, the post-Millennial generation, or whom many refer to as “Generation Z”, starts at 1997 and does not yet have a cutoff year or an agreed upon name. Pew explains in their report:
Anyone born between 1981 and 1996 (ages 22-37 in 2018) will be considered a Millennial, and anyone born from 1997 onward will be part of a new generation. Since the oldest among this rising generation are just turning 21 this year, and most are still in their teens, we think it’s too early to give them a name – though The New York Times asked readers to take a stab – and we look forward to watching as conversations among researchers, the media and the public help a name for this generation take shape.
Ladies and gentlemen, meet the Mass Shooting Generation.
To be clear, the name is not one that I came up with. It’s showing up in clicky headlines across a wide variety of news sites. But it might just be spot-on. The oldest of this generation were born a few years before Columbine in 1999, and most of the generation was old enough to feel the impact of the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012. They learned “Run. Hide. Fight” along with their multiplication tables. In school, they are taught to look for exit signs and they have almost as many lockdown drills as fire drills.
I think a lot about Generation Z, both because of my work in generational dynamics and because I am the parent of one. I find them remarkable. It’s like they got the best parts of each generation before them: the activism of Baby Boomers, the moxie of GenX and the self-advocacy of Millennials. They are the true digital natives and understand how technology can impact a movement. They are remarkably informed. Oh, did I mention their size? In the U.S. alone, Gen Z will reach 84.7 million by 2020, making up 24.7% of the American population. They are legion.
Among the hundreds of thousands in Washington D.C. was my cousin’s child, Taylor, who will turn 17 a week after this post is published. Taylor posted about the experience and the reasons behind it on Facebook, and part of the post is below, re-published with Taylor’s permission:
Today I did not march on the basis of all or nothing. I did not march to decry all gun owners—responsible gun owners—what would that do for these crimes listed? Nothing.
Today I marched to advocate for the safety of our population; children. To voice that yes, we do need to improve our gun regulation, to prevent the violent machines from getting into the wrong hands, like they continue to.
You can argue that guns aren’t the only problem, and to that I agree. But to argue that they are not a problem at all renders you blind. A murder cannot occur without a murder weapon after all.
Today I marched with the hope that in the future I won’t have to worry about my friends dying by my side, or our future generations dying by theirs. As of now,however, those moments only exist in my dreams.
This is not for all or nothing, this is for improving the regulation and safety throughout our country; for never having to bury our families like this again.
We may not yet have reached our glory, but I will gladly join the fight.
The March for Our Lives may be marked as a historic event, but this generation is already beginning to make its mark in other ways as well. Their attitudes, habits and behaviors are influencing industries from retail to entertainment to higher education. It’s exciting for this GenX-er to watch a younger generation begin to feel their power.
I just hope we are able to call them something else.