By Meghan Christian
According to Ruth Milkman’s analysis “A New Political Generation: Millennials and the Post-2008 Wave of Protest” in the January, 2017 American Sociological Review, the media has perpetuated an idea that millennials (who range between 22 and 36 years old currently) are lazy, entitled, and less engaged overall. This was demonstrated by the 2013 Time Magazine cover story claiming millennials as the “Me, Me, Me” generation. However, Milkman finds that this is not the case.
“Defying the popular stereotypes of their generation as selfish, narcissistic, and politically disengaged, Millennials have more progressive attitudes and beliefs than do older generations,” Milkman asserted. “Moreover, many of them have acted on those beliefs through engagement in social movements,” she added.
These social movements have taken many forms: the Occupy Wall Street movement of 2011, Black Lives Matter, the #MeToo movement, and even more locally in the Power to the Polls protest held in Lansing earlier this year just to name a few.
Not only do millennials engage in social movements, but Milkman also asserts that they, and other young people, are not as removed from organized politics as previously believed. According to numbers provided by the Pew Research Center, “66 percent of voters under age 30 cast their ballot for (Obama) that year, compared to 50 percent of those age 30 or over” and then in 2016, when Bernie Sanders was running for the Democratic nomination, “72 percent of voters under age 30 cast their vote for Sanders…, whereas 71 percent of those 65 and over voted for Clinton.”
This type of political involvement goes even deeper for some here in the city of Flint. Many young people are activists and others are even getting involved in the legislative arena. Though technically too young to be considered a millennial himself, Third Ward Councilperson Santino Guerra, 20, for example, has been active in politics from a young age and says he believes young people everywhere should become engaged in local politics, especially if they don’t like what they are currently seeing from their political leaders.
Guerra spoke with East Village Magazine about his engagement in politics and offered tips for other young people. Responses have been lightly edited for spelling and grammar only.
What first inspired you to get involved in politics in general?
I was inspired to get into politics because of the way I grew up. My father got locked up when I was a baby. I went on to be raised by a single mother who I barely saw because she was working to support my sister and me. The struggles that make or break people were the true inspiration. I grew up, in a far from perfect world, with the desire to want to help others who may be going through the same things I was. The best way to achieve this goal was through politics, so when I was old enough to get involved at 14 I started knocking doors for candidates that represent the people.
What about Flint made you want to get involved in politics?
Seeing the rapid decline in the City that I was raised in got me involved in local politics. I got involved so I could support public safety to help the citizens of Flint by reducing crime in the city. The blighted homes scattered throughout the city encouraged me to join the fight to get them knocked down. The Flint Water Crisis, became a situation where I did not want to sit on sidelines and watch the city suffer; I wanted to get in the game and move the city forward. But my biggest motivation to get into Flint politics is because the opportunity I get to serve the people.
Do you think it’s important for young people to get involved in politics? Why or why not?
Absolutely it’s important for young people to get involved in politics. Every piece of legislation that is passed affects every generation. We all may have certain topics that are more special to us, but regardless of what the issue is or your age your voices should be heard.
Where should young people look to start getting involved/any tips?
If young people want to get involved I would encourage them to look around the community, see what needs to change, and then change it. Find a church, club, organization, business, or politician you believe in and reach out them… Ask how you you can help. If I can be of any assistance, don’t hesitate to contact me at 810-499 9619.
“If you don’t like the conversation, change the subject,” Guerra said. He added that residents are always welcome to attend Flint City Council meetings and voice their opinions and concerns during the public speaking portion. The next FCC meeting will be at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 8 in City Council Chambers on the third floor of City Hall.
Banner photo: Flint Millennials assembled at a recent gathering sponsored by Mayor Karen Weaver at the Ferris Wheel (Photo by Meghan Christian).
EVM Managing Editor Meghan Christian can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.