On how Gen Z are like Boomers and why that matters
Gen Z have more in common with Boomers than one might think and those similarities may be vital to our progressive organizations.
Baby Boomers have earned the “OK boomer” eyeroll. It’s easy to forget that their participation in widespread direct political action throughout the 1960s and 1970s changed the world.
In a lab, an effective catalyst can have an explosive reaction. The Baby Boomers had that reaction. They accelerated us forward. They are a Catalyst Generation.
A Catalyst Generation is a generation whose collective impact is one of profound cultural change.
Photo by Peter Pettus (1965)
The U.S. National Archives (1977)
Photo by Susan Ruggles (2020)
Photo by Mark Dixon (2022)
Gen X and Millennials are a mixed bag. They don’t know a world before the gains of the 1960s and 1970s or the vicious backlash to that progress.
Gen Z was in its infancy during 9/11. Today, they are confronted by escalating political violence and climate crisis. In the United States, they are unsafe in their schools. Things seem to be at a constant fever pitch, like in the 1960s, when Baby Boomers were about the same age as Gen Z is now.
Gen Z’s increasing participation in direct political action has gained them a cultural influence that has been missing from the zeitgeist since the youth of the Baby Boomers. Gen Z is a Catalyst Generation. Ironically perhaps, the aim of their work is to correct the impact of the Boomers, a sobering reminder that the nature of progressivism is to forever progress.
In Champions’ work with the Southern Poverty Law Center, our partners identified their primary donor base as older Baby Boomers. They share this donor base with many long-standing social justice organizations in the U.S. The Catalyst Generation is still going strong. They also spoke to how essential youth engagement is.
Baby Boomers are a long-living generation who continue to have significant socio-political power. Gen Z is coming up with might. By centering their similarities, social justice organizations may be able to build the solidarity that is essential to radical change.