Millennials Think They're Post-Racial

Illustration for article titled Millennials Think They're Post-Racial

A study conducted by MTV (yes, that MTV) Strategic Insights offers illuminating findings about how Millennials think of and deal with racial bias. Basically, they value racial equality, but disagree on the degree to which we've achieved it, or how we should address it.


As NPR's Gene Denby summarizes:

Here's what they agreed on, across all races. Respondents believed people should be treated the same, regardless of race, and they felt people their age believed in equality more than older people. Most felt President Obama's election was proof that racism was mostly a phenomenon of the past, and that race was not a barrier to accomplishment.

70% of white respondents thought this about having a Obama's election, versus 64% for minorities.

Eight in 10 said they knew someone who was biased; 6 in 10 felt that they were not personally biased. More than half said that bias was a serious problem but that it was mostly hidden, and a solid majority said they'd worked to get rid of their own biases.

In other words, the problem is other people, not them personally.

The pollsters found that respondents wanted a colorblind society and believed that "never considering race would improve society" — while at the same time they also said "embracing diversity and celebrating differences would make society better."


This is reflected in both a majority of whites and minorities opposing affirmative acition. Both groups also mostly feel that people use racism as an excuse too often.

In terms of divergence of opinion by race, white tears come into play:

White respondents were nearly twice as likely to feel that the government pays too much attention to the problems of racial minority groups. And nearly half of all white respondents said they felt discrimination against white people was as big a problem as discrimination against people of color.


However, way more people of color, women and LGBTQ folks answered that they had personal experience with racism.

As to how to deal with racism: While a vast majority of respondents felt that their families had taught them not to see racial bias, only 30% said that they talked about race within their families growing up. Many respondents also testified to how difficult it is to not have a heated conversation about race, or didn't know how to address bias, without causing escalation.


This survey therefore shows that we may have come a long way (in our self-reported perspective), but that discussing racial bias is still fraught.

Below is a list of conclusions that the MTV study came to. Read about them in more detail here, as well as Gene Denby's aforementioned report. Also shoutout to the study's Asian American respondents, 75% of whom said they've gotten the "Where are you from?" question.

  1. Millennials are coming of age in a racially sensitive society.
  2. The majority of millennials believe that their generation is post‐racial.
  3. Millennials feel that 'colorblindness' is something to strive for yet also believe in 'celebrating diversity'.
  4. Despite this universal belief in equality, real world experiences differ greatly.
  5. The modern day face of bias is more subtle and most Millennials see it in their lives.
  6. Millennials believe open conversation about bias will reduce prejudice, but they're uncomfortable with the subject and don't know how to start the discussion.
  7. They don't just want to talk about it – they're ready to take action.

Image via Getty.



I believe it. My generation was brought up to not "see" race, so our biases are unconscious and it's often hard to get people to admit that we have them.

The problem with colorblindness is that it allows us to ignore the issue. If we don't see race, it doesn't exist. Which is great, except for the fact that racism still exists.

I can get the sentiment behind the fact that we all should be equal. But that doesn't mean that we have to erase differences. We all don't start out on a level playing field in the real world; what comes easy for one person is a struggle for another.