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Generation X: The Distinguished Generation

A recent study conducted by the Pew Research Center earlier this spring focused on Generation X. This is the group of Americans born between 1965 and 1979. The report, titled “Generation X: America’s Neglected Child,” examined the attitudes of this age demographic in regard to religion, race, interracial marriage, technology, social media, politics, level of patriotism and other issues.

As a member of this group of Americans (born in 1967), I can readily attest to some of the findings.

To those of you who are not familiar with the term Generation X, it was a label taken from the 1991 novel by author Douglas Copeland. During the mid-1990s, there was brief period of fascination with Generation X’ers. Like any other group of people, we were pegged with stereotypes that supposedly defined us. Among some of the more common traits ascribed to us are:

Technology adept
Ready for adventure
Holistically spiritual
Uncommitted to employers

In addition, we were also dubbed an “angry and troubled” generation. This image of despondency was furthered exacerbated with the suicide of Nirvana lead singer Kurt Cobain in 1994. For weeks, legions of baby boomer journalists, psychologists, talk show hosts and virtually any non-Gen X’er who felt confident enough to exercise an opinion went into overdrive with unrelenting commentary on how Gen X’ers were troubled, angry, tragic and supposedly mired in all sorts of misfortune.

Truth be told, Generation X’ers are no more tragic than any other group of people. We were seen as slackers. In fact, this was the defining term used to describe Generation X. We were indeed supposedly lost souls. We were also the generation comprised of millions of latch key kids, divorced parents, erratic fluctuations in the economy, deadly transmitted diseases and sporadic wars. Growing up was certainly not blue skies and apple pie.

Fast forward two decades later.

Now that those of us on the older X’ers have entered early middle age (45 years old or older) and those of us on the younger end are in our mid-30s or beyond, we have passed the twenty-something stage and have experienced many of the trials and unpredicted situations that occasionally accompany adulthood. A number of older X’ers have teenage kids or children in high school or are about to enter college. Those on the younger end are starting families or have children in grade and middle school. A sizable number (like many baby boomers) are childless.

The slacker image no longer applies. In fact, a number of studies conducted on workplace habits have made the case that Generation X’ers are resourceful, independent, self-sufficient and relatively socially progressive. We are also generation that embraces technology and social media, interracial and gay marriage much more readily than baby boomers, but not to the extent that millennials do.

While Generation X (46 Million) does not have the numbers that baby boomers (80 million) or millennials (86 million) we are still nonetheless a distinctive generation. We are group of adults who grew up watching Schoolhouse Rock, The Electric Company, ZOOM, The Cosby Show, 90210, Melrose Place, etc. We are defined by movies such as Love Jones, The Breakfast Club and Reality Bites. We are the demographic that includes Queen Latifah, Ethan Hawke, Van Jones, Ben Stiller, Winona Ryder, Halle Berry, Matt Damon, Molly Ringwald, Harold Ford Jr., Jimmy Kimmel, Edwidge Danticat, Jimmy Fallon, Leonardo DiCaprio, Joy Ann Reid, Cory Booker, Anderson Cooper, John Singleton, Rebecca Walker, Jon Hamm, Melissa Harris-Perry, Eva Longoria and others.

Such a diverse roster speaks for itself. If there is one thing that Generation X is known for, it is its distinctiveness.

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