Each time I hear someone blame or simply dismiss members of my generation, the so-called “Boomers,” for causing the great divides separating people by race, socioeconomic class, gender, sexuality, and other social identities, I want to shout for them please to read and truly understand history.
Boomers were the driving force and passion behind the Black Panther Party, the Peace movement, LGBT rights, the disability rights movement, AIDS activism, and the environmental movement. We stood up, sat in, marched, organized, boycotted, and sang together in harmony.
Who do you think police directed those powerful fire hoses against? They tear-gassed, arrested, and shot and killed us for exercising our constitutional rights.
Of course, like any generation, many were seduced into supporting the status quo for the goodies the capitalist system had to offer. As time progressed, their ideals for progressive and equitable change became merely a distant memory.
Also like any generation, we made many mistakes.
Many “bought” into the overriding foundation in our current “neoliberal” age in which property rights hold precedence over human rights. In this environment, we are witnessing a cultural war waged by the political, corporate, and theocratic right, a war to turn back all the gains progressive people have made over the years.
But many of us took our progressive ideals as if they were encoded into our very being. During some of those “headier” times, we really believed we could establish a better and more perfect, peaceful, and loving world.
We put into practice what feminists had taught us — that the “personal is political.” We laughed and we cried together. We shared our ideas and our most intimate secrets. We dreamed our dreams and laid our plans for a world free from all the deadly forms of oppression, and as we went along, invented new ways of relating.
Though many of our dreams for a more perfect society fell far short from our imagination and our tireless attempts, we did, nonetheless, advance social change somewhat on many fronts.
So the next time anyone from the more recent generations attempts to paint all us Boomers with the same frayed brush, remind them they are currently perched high above Boomer shoulders that serve as their foundation.
Young people have been and continue to be at the heart of progressive social change movements. Youth are transforming and revolutionizing society and its institutions by challenging power inequities related not only to social identity hierarchies, but also making links in the various types of oppression. And they are forming coalitions with other marginalized groups.
Their activism has great potential to bring us to a future where people across intersectional identities will live freely, unencumbered by social taboos and cultural norms. It is a future in which diversity across spectrums will live in liberty and freedom.
And many of us Boomers remain upfront and behind the scenes as active participants and as allies.